Yorkshire Carnegie: Mercer makes strong case for an improved defence

Harry Leonard.
Harry Leonard.
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YORKSHIRE CARNEGIE boss Gary Mercer has urged his players to start loving the thrill of the tackle.

Although the side has traditionally never had an issue scoring points, playing some brilliant football under Jimmy Lowes last term, incoming chief Mercer wants them to develop a greater appetite for defence.

They head to Moseley tonight for their third Championship game of the season and he has set them the target of keeping the hosts tryless for 80 minutes.

“It has been touched on in meetings how important it is to start well,” said Mercer, whose side lost 26-13 at home to Bristol on Sunday when their energy levels were questioned.

“When I say ‘energy’ what we’re finding at the moment is we’re playing on our toes with the ball in hand but when we’ve not got it we’re playing on our heels.

“That is something we have to change. There has to be a massive change in mindset from our attack game to defence.

“We have to start enjoying defending. We’re not doing that and it’s really important we do.

“If we can work on that, we know we’ve got our A-game in attack.

“But it’s important now to get that defensive game in place as if we do we’ll get more consistency in performance and the results we want.

“Our strength has been the set-piece. That didn’t come into play against Bristol and we didn’t adapt quickly enough.

“Defensively we know there’s a lot of work to do and it is a massive focus for us.

“But I like to think the boys can go to Moseley and not concede a try.”

Mercer has only been in charge four weeks and, having spent a decade working in Scottish rugby, admits his knowledge of Moseley is limited.

“I’ve heard it’s a bit of an uphill field but, as I’ve told the boys, I’ve not been there so it’s important they help me and we manage our game well,” he said, as Yorkshire look to add to their opening day win at Cornish Pirates.

“Moseley are a very dogged side from what I’ve heard and they look like that on tape, too.

“But what I’ve said is we have to get through those tough patches and make sure we make the right decisions – I was disappointed with how we did that against Bristol.

“I think we’re a good side. We have to become a great side within this league if we’re really serious about the top four.

“The players know more than me about what’s coming (at Moseley) but, even though it’s early season, it’s important we start getting some momentum.”

Moseley opened with a 22-22 home draw with Jersey before falling 23-7 at relegated Worcester.

Mercer has made five changes with fl-half Harry Leonard gaining his first start for the club since arriving from Edinburgh during the summer.

That allows Glyn Hughes to move to full-back and David McIlwaine reverts to the wing in place of Lewis Jones.

David Doherty is still sidelined by a knee injury suffered at Cornish.

In the front-row, Lee Imiolek, Phil Nilsen and Ben Hooper get the chance to start with Ben Harris and James Tideswell reverting to the bench and Joe Graham missing out, Ollie Hayes – the signing from Bristol – set to debut as a replacement.

Second-row Nathan Hannay makes his first start of the season while James Fitzpatrick could debut off the bench and, also, Harry Casson returns after missing the Bristol game with a head injury.

England coach Eddie Jones, left, and captain Dylan Hartley have plenty to ponder after today's defeat.

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