Realistic McGee reassesses Yorkshire Carnegie’s top-four dream

Tommy McGee.
Tommy McGee.
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Tommy McGee insists thoughts of taking a big stride towards the Championship’s top four are redundant until Yorkshire Carnegie can master the small steps.

Carnegie’s progress under their stand-in head coach was checked by defeat at promotion challengers London Scottish last week, one that left McGee angrier than at any time in his two years on the coaching staff of the Headingley club.

Ahead of a daunting trip to unbeaten league leaders Bristol tomorrow – a team Carnegie trail by a massive 33 points – McGee has sought to put right in training the indiscipline that cost them so dearly.

And until they can do that, the former Scotland A prop believes any thoughts of the top four and reviving their promotion hopes are a waste of time.

“There’s no point thinking about the top four right now,” said McGee, who succeeded Gary Mercer at the end of November and began his spell in charge with four successive wins.

“We need to think about Bristol, we need to think about putting Scottish right and a good week’s preparation, and then putting that into action.

“Then maybe incrementally we’ll start climbing the table, but we’ve got to earn those chances.

“You can have an end game but if the small steps aren’t correct then the end game isn’t going to happen for you.”

Since winning those first four games, three of them in the British and Irish Cup, Carnegie have lost two in a row, but McGee is confident progress is being made with regards redefining their attacking style.

“We’ve got a long way to go, the half-backs are still finding their feet with the speed we’re trying to play at,” said McGee, who wanted to give back to his team the attacking licence that Mercer had stifled.

“The shape is something we are continuing to evolve to help us create a lot more chances.

“And we are creating more, you saw that in the first 20 minutes against Worcester. Unfortunately the London Scottish defeat held us back a little through our own discipline.

“Where are we to where we were three months ago? I think we’re in a better place. Are we anywhere near where we want to be? No. Is that going to happen overnight? No. But I’ll keep challenging the guys because we want that progression sooner rather than later.”

To that end, players reacting quicker and smarter to scenarios that unfold during games is pivotal to that progression.

“We’ve been very honest this week, very clear about what we’re looking for and not looking for and how that impacts on the team,” said McGee. “If we aren’t honest in our review process then we’re hiding behind it, and you don’t progress like that.

“If the players don’t learn then we won’t select them, ultimately that’s the power we have.

“How do we as a team knock that indiscipline out? By listening, as basic as that sounds; to the referee, to the leaders or the signal callers, or the coaches; we listen, we adapt and we do it.

“I’ve not finger-pointed that anybody’s not good enough, that is not the case. The guys are desperate to impress.

“They’re over-enthusiastic as opposed to cynical or lazy or not good enough, they are more than capable. We’ve got a great squad with good people here, but they need to listen when the game develops and the heat intensifies, we need to adapt and do the right things at the right times.”

Carnegie make five changes to the side for tomorrow’s game. Jon Clarke, Chris Jones and Josh Bainbridge all come back into the starting line-up for Rob Vickerman, Mike Myerscough and Richard Beck, who all picked up injuries.

In the forwards, Ben Harris and James Tideswell both start, having come on from the bench against London Scottish.