EXPECTANT Yorkshire Carnegie head coach Bryan Redpath admits tomorrow’s top-of-the-table clash with Bristol will be a “massive yardstick” of their promotion credentials.
Carnegie – who missed out on the play-offs last term – have started the Championship campaign impressively with five wins from six games to take the early pole position.
However, they face their toughest test yet when they head to Ashton Gate to encounter a vastly-experienced Bristol side who finished top last time and only missed out on promotion due to yet another play-offs failure.
For all Carnegie have picked up points so far, Redpath realises they have been far from convincing at times and accepts they still have to improve markedly.
“Bristol were consistently one of the best sides last year,” he said.
“They lost out in the play-off final and have been in play-off situations so we know what they can do.
“They have some quality players despite some missing due to the World Cup and retirement.
“They have always had a good scrum and there’s a dangerous backline with Tom Varndell who can finish and is up there in the Premiership’s top try-scorers while (Gavin) Henson is always a danger.
“But it’s about their collective team effort. If they click they can score 50 points. They’ve not done it this season but did so a few times last year.
“We need to be disciplined and confrontational and, of course, this is a massive yardstick to see where we are in a big game and the mentality of us being able to do the basics better.
“And that is all it is – the basics. It’s not necessarily anything flash or a wand being needed, but our basics that get challenged in bigger games.”
Carnegie faltered at times during last week’s 27-20 win over Doncaster Knights when their second half forward domination should have yielded more points rather than a situation that saw them nervously edging home.
Redpath conceded: “It’s not about commitment or character – that’s never questioned – it’s about execution and an understanding of what to do at what stage of the game.
“Sometimes we don’t relieve pressure, we just do something to create it again.
“That’s experience as well and it’ll get better as we get on but we will have to be 25 to 30 per cent better to defeat Bristol, no question.
“That’s what we’re leaving out there at the moment; two or three chances, two or three decision-making parts and one or two tackles.
“We’ve stumbled through some wins but I’m delighted with the way the boys have reacted to the whole thing.
“They have taken the criticism, tried to work on it, change things and some things have worked. We’re scoring plenty but conceding at the wrong times.
“This is a great chance for me to see – like the Worcester game last season – where we are in this league. We look forward to this challenge and should be buzzing for it.”
Carnegie have made six changes to his side for the trip to Bristol.
Tom Casson will make his debut at centre alongside Pete Lucock while David Doherty returns after recovering from a back injury to replace Christian Georgiou on the wing.
In the forwards, Jack Walker is back at hooker with Phil Nilsen starting as a replacement this week. Captain Chris Jones reverts to the back row to allow Matt Smith and Tom Ryder to play alongside each other in the second row for the first time.