McGee to carry on as boss of Yorkshire Carnegie

Tommy McGee
Tommy McGee
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Tommy McGee has been told to continue in his role as caretaker head coach of Yorkshire Carnegie for the foreseeable future.

The former Scotland A prop has been in temporary charge of the Headingley men since the departure of Gary Mercer three weeks ago.

McGee was asked to take charge of the next three games in the British and Irish Cup, the first two of which resulted in victories.

Carnegie conclude their pool campaign today with a White Rose derby against Rotherham Titans, who have beaten them twice already this season.

With a short turnaround before they resume Championship action at Jersey next Saturday, and with promotion challengers Worcester due at Headingley two days after Christmas, McGee has been told to continue taking charge of first-team affairs until further notice.

The former Leeds front-rower has had a galvanising effect on the first team, who have responded to his decree to let them return to their attacking roots.

Some of the defensive schemes that Mercer put in place are still in operation, but with his troubled reign over, Carnegie’s players are responding in positive fashion.

And the influence he has exerted has been praised by director of rugby Chris Gibson, the man who brought McGee back to the club as forwards coach two years ago.

“Tommy has got the job for the foreseeable future,” said Gibson.

“He is well-respected by the players. I’ve known him a long time, going back to his playing days here.

“I appointed him as forwards coach and we work very well together.

“The players are a lot happier. They’ve been given clarity about what’s expected of them.

“Last week at Huddersfield they produced a really good performance and were good for 30, 40 minutes at Aberavon the week before.”

The acid test will come on the return to the Championship, starting next week in the Channel Islands and then at home against Worcester.

Carnegie’s promotion hopes are not beyond salvation. They may be third bottom but they are only eight points from a place in the top four with 70 points still to play for.

They are also the subject of takeover speculation, with an announcement expected around the turn of the year about the make-up of the club’s new board.

All that points to the continuation of the positive vibes emanating from the playing staff.

“I think what we’ve seen is people with a smile on their face,” said Gibson of the upturn in mood.

“The lads are happy, they respect Tommy and they’re looking forward to the next few weeks.

“We’ve got a tough period coming up, with not only the next two games but Bristol and London Scottish to come in January.

“It’ll be a big test in all of those games but what we can assure fans is that they will see a very different team, and much-improved performances by the players.”

McGee has made six changes to the team for today’s derby with David McIlwaine coming to replace Rob Vickerman, who suffered an injury scoring against Ulster, and Chris Pilgrim coming in for Matt Dudman. In the forwards, Charlie Beech and Lee Imiolek are in the front row while Chris Walker has recovered from illness and Ryan Burrows will captain the side against his former club.

Luke Peters is set to make his debut off the bench.

The Portsmouth-born centre moved to Leeds to study and his performances for Leeds Beckett University, who are coached by McGee, saw him selected to train for the first team in the close season.