New boy Clegg on Leeds Carnegie mission

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Diccon Edwards will thrust “fantastic” new signing Rory Clegg straight into the action on Sunday.

The England Saxons fly-half joined on loan from Harlequins earlier this week and will be given an instant chance to impress against Plymouth Albion.

He arrives desperate for regular football after being squeezed out by high-profile New Zealanders Nick Evans and Ben Botica at the Premiership champions.

Edwards sees no reason why Clegg shouldn’t get that immediately, meaning he will replace Joe Ford in the No10 shirt and be charged with piloting the side to victory in the Championship clash at Headingley Carnegie.

“Rory will be the first to admit, certainly this season, he’d have liked more game opportunities and he’s come here for that reason, so it’s right he starts,” said the Leeds chief.

“It’s important the relationship works well for both parties and we give him the opportunity to showcase his quality.

“He is a fantastic signing for us and the quality of it reflects our ambition but also says a lot about us that he sees us as a place where he can improve his game.

“People forget, while he already has plenty of experience, he is still only 22.”

Edwards wanted competition in the chief playmaker role and Clegg certainly now brings that.

He should bring the best out of Ford, another talented young fly-half who has been ever-present in their league campaign, and Leeds will be hoping he can give them some extra edge in the second half of the season.

Just before Christmas, in their last outing, they disappointingly lost 20-17 at Jersey, the sort of game they would envisage going their way with some added control and poise.

Leeds, who lost all four of their matches in December, had Christmas week off and Edwards admitted: “It was nice but, at the same time, it’s also given the lads time to reflect and mull over what could have been a winning performance at Jersey.

“That still rankles and, with 2013 an exciting year for where we’re going, we need to make sure we start off with a real strong winning performance against Plymouth.”

Carnegie have a score to settle with the Devonians as well given they lost down there 32-31 back in September, Ford crucially unable to convert Jacob Rowan’s last-minute try.

It is just the sort of frustrating defeat that has stalled Leeds’ campaign and, having slipped to sixth, they need to eradicate them in the months ahead.

“That (Plymouth) was in the early stages of the season but to go away from home, score five tries and still not win was hugely disappointing,” recalled Edwards.

“We’re aware Plymouth can score points and cause problems but we’ve lots of reasons for wanting to get one back on Sunday.

“We’ve a proud home record to protect, we want to start 2013 with a bang and we’re obviously really excited about being back at Headingley Carnegie.”

This weekend sees Edwards’ side play a first game at their home ground in three months after they went ‘On the Road’ while the Headingley playing surface was re-laid in a £1m refit.

The Carnegie squad was due to have its first training session on it this morning and the coach admitted: “All the reports say it’s great.

“Leeds Rhinos played there Boxing Day and said it was quality and everyone says it should be fantastic for us to play the type of rugby we’re wanting to deliver.”

Leeds have been further boosted with the news that six of their young stars have pledged their future to the club.

Captain Jacob Rowan, 22, has led the way by putting pen to paper on a two-year contract that will keep him at the club until the end of the 2014-15 season.

Fellow back-row forwards Richard Beck and Ryan Burrows, plus prop Sam Lockwood, have also agreed new two-year deals. Fred Brudon has signed a new one-year deal and prop Ben Harris has signed for 18 months. All six are under 25.

Carnegie: McColl; Clark; Griffin; Burdon; Doherty; Clegg; Doherty; Lockwood; Nilsen; Hooper; Green; Barrow; Baldwin; Rowan (c); Burrows. Subs: Graham; Harris; Tussac; Smith; Walker; Hampson; Georgiou.

England's George Ford during the training session at Pennyhill Park. Picture: Yui Mok/PA

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