Rotherham Titans v Leeds Carnegie: Pendlebury expecting a ‘warm’ welcome from old friends

Jon Pendlebury in match action against London Welsh.
Jon Pendlebury in match action against London Welsh.
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Jon Pendlebury is expecting a warm welcome of sorts from hometown club Rotherham Titans.

The Leeds Carnegie second row locks horns with his former club and makes a rare return to Clifton Lane having left for Gloucester back in 2004.

Rotherham have had some famous battles with Leeds in the past, with the South Yorkshiremen liking nothing better than turning them over.

And Pendlebury, 28, who penned a two-year deal with Carnegie in June despite rumoured interest from Titans, is expecting a battle royale on Sunday with both teams smarting from opening-day losses.

Pendlebury, pictured above, who returns to his old club along with Lee Blackett and Ryan Burrows, said: “On their own pitch, Rotherham are a very proud team and they are always difficult to play at Clifton Lane.

They will be physical with big forwards and big backs and they will look to play an in-your face, aggressive type of game.

“Derbies brought out a little bit extra in you. Leeds versus Rotherham or Doncaster are big games for us this year; everybody wants to be the number one team in Yorkshire.”

On his Titans return, he added: “A few players have moved on and a load more have come in and the only lad I still know is Rhodesy (Matt Rhodes), who I actually played with at Rotherham in his first stint there where we were in the Premiership. He’s club captain and I’m still friends with him.

“We just want to get a win and a good performance in and to put right some things that didn’t go very well last week.”

Pendlebury remains hopeful familiarity will breeds success for Carnegie this season.

Diccon Edwards’ new-look side contained six debutants in last weekend’s disappointing opening-day Championship home reverse to London Welsh and a lack of cohesion showed in a 32-13 defeat.

Following a big turn-over of players and the expected early-season blooding of several promising, if raw, talents, it’s not rocket science to deduce that Carnegie represent the proverbial work in progress in the early part of the season, with savvy and experienced Welsh by contrast already looking the real deal.

Pendlebury added: “Welsh were semi-finalists last year and bar a couple of players that have been brought in this summer, that team has been together for a good few years and you could see that.

“How they played is basically what we want to get to, as the season goes on. Sunday was only our third game together as a team and a lot of lads made their senior debut – never mind their first game for Leeds.

“You don’t want to make excuses, but they were the better team on the day. But I think people will definitely see us playing better rugby as the season goes on.”

Coach Edwards brings outside centre Iain Thornley into the starting 15 for the first time, replacing Ollie Richards. Thornley is currently on loan with Leeds from Sale Sharks, England Under-19 captain Dominic Barrow has been named on the bench, replacing Dan Hemingway, while Michael Stephenson is also set for his first appearance of the season.

Leeds Carnegie (away to Rotherham): McColl, Blackett, Thornley, Barrow, Wilson, Ford, Hampson, Denman, Titterrell, Young, Denton, Hohneck, Pendlebury, Rowan, Burrows. Reps: Nilsen, Swainston, Barrow, Beck, White, Barker, Stephenson.

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