James Lowes has encouraged his Leeds Carnegie players to continue playing with a freedom of expression as they look to regain their momentum for the promotion push.
Carnegie lost for the first time in five games last Sunday when they were beaten by promotion-rivals and the Greene King IPA Championship’s pacesetters Bristol.
With four games left they have a nine-point cushion over fifth-placed London Scottish with just 20 points left to play for in the race for the top four.
And despite last week’s setback when Leeds left their second-half rally too late, Lowes has imstilled upon his players that the defeat should not result in a shackling of their ambition.
“I like the attitude of the boys and the willingness to try things,” said the first-year head coach.
“Sometimes you get errors within that but you’ve just got to deal with that.
“The top-four teams do play a bit; ourselves, Welsh, Bristol and Rotherham all like to sling the ball around so it can be entertaining rugby.
“We’re very adaptable, there’s nothing black and white about how we play.”
Externally the focus might be on the make-up of the top four and who meets who when the semi-finals get underway in May, but internally, Lowes insists thoughts are not yet turning towards the post-season.
With work still to do – Leeds probably need two wins from their final four games – the thinking at Kirkstall is let’s cement our place before looking too far ahead.
“It’s there in the back of your mind the opportunity to get in that four, but let’s do the week- to-week thing first and the rest will take care of itself,” continued Lowes, whose side visit lowly Nottingham tomorrow.
“We’re not focused on the top four at the moment.
“There’s no rewards for finishing one, two, three or four which is a strange concept.
“You’ve got to play the best sides in the competition to get to the Premiership no matter which way you look at it so it becomes less of a focus finishing top.
“The reward for finishing top is minimal.”
Tomorrow’s opponents Nottingham have been one of the disappointments of the season.
This time last year they were fighting Carnegie for the final play-off birth but while Leeds have built on their terrific finish to the 2012-13 season, Nottingham have gone backwards.
They sit 10th in the 12-team division, with their safety still not mathematically assured.
Nottingham showed signs of life a month ago, beating London Scottish and then giving Bristol a fright.
But they then went and shipped 50 points against Rotherham in their last home game.
But Lowes insisted: “I’m worried about us and our form, you still need to play well to beat opposition irrelevent of their form.
“We had some shaky patches against Bristol, but we’re okay form wise.”
Lowes has made four changes for the trip to Meadow Lane. Alex Lozowski returns to the starting line-up in place of Jonah Holmes at full-back while Craig Hampson starts at scrum-half.
In the forwards, Charlie Beech replaces the injured Ben Harris at loosehead prop with Chris Walker coming in for Ryan Burrows in the back row.
James Currie, Jarad Williams, James Doyle and Rob Vickerman are all back on the bench after missing last week’s defeat to Bristol.
Leeds have been busy on the recruitment front as well, with Lee Imiolek the latest to agree to terms, although it has been announced that Stevie McColl is leaving at the end of the season to join Gloucester in the Premiership.
Lowes said: “I have to be quite heavily involved with opinions on who I want to bring in and who I want to keep so it’s been quite hectic with identifying players we want to keep and who we no longer need.
“Hopefully most of the time they come off and if they don’t, you’re on the hunt for the next big thing.”