YORKSHIRE CARNEGIE look to secure their British & Irish Cup quarter-final place tomorrow but flanker Richard Beck has warned: We’re not done in the Championship yet.
They face Ulster Ravens in their penultimate B&I Cup Pool 2 fixture ‘on the road’ at Huddersfield YMCA knowing victory will see last season’s beaten finalists reach the last eight again.
That will be a positive in a turbulent campaign that has seen them flounder in the league, slipping to 10th with just two wins all season despite being play-off semi-finalists in 2013-14.
Head coach Gary Mercer has left the club just three months into his reign and forwards coach Tommy McGee is currently overseeing matters for the foreseeable future at least.
Their hopes of a top-four spot, in a campaign when they earmarked promotion back to the Premiership, seem over but Beck, who is just returning from shoulder surgery, argues otherwise.
“It’s all been a bit strange for me as I’ve not really played in any Championship games at all,” he said, a brief spell off the bench in the 19-19 draw with Plymouth preceding his full return in the 43-32 B&I Cup win at Aberavon last Friday.
“I’ve only really come back in the last couple of weeks but we can turn it around. This league is really close and if you go on a decent run and win a few games in a row you are straight back in there. People write you off pretty early and say you can’t make the top four but any team can beat anybody in the Championship.
“Maybe on the outside people are worried about us not reaching the play-offs but we’re not concerned about it inside the club.
“We just want to get winning games and there’s a chance to do that.”
They complete their B&I Cup pool obligations at group leaders Rotherham Titans in a week’s time before league games at Jersey and versus Worcester Warriors at Headingley on December 27.
Beck, 25, realises there is a chance to replicate some of last season’s achievements when, under Jimmy Lowes and around this time, they embarked on an eight-game winning run.
“We just want to win games of rugby whether that’s B&I Cup or Championship,” added the Academy product, who racked up his 50th game for the club last term.
“The way our season’s panned out so far we just want to keep winning. That’s what happened last year. There wasn’t a big focus on ‘We’re going to go try and win the B&I Cup’ or anything like that.
“We just tried to keep that winning run going as it keeps confidence up, too, and then you keep playing your rugby and keep winning games as well.
“It is more of a confidence thing and being able to keep that level of performance sustained between the competitions.
“The season before last it was disruptive. We’d win a Championship game, maybe lose two B&I Cup games on the bounce, and then be expected to go straight back into the Championship and carry on where we’d left off.
“It just doesn’t work like that. We know we have to keep picking up victories now.”
Ulster have lost all four contests so far but Beck insisted: “They’ll be strong. It’s always difficult to work out what sort of team they will field.
“They have such a massive squad and it all depends on what their first team are doing but we won’t underestimate them.
“They gave us a tough game over there earlier in the season (Carnegie won 22-17) and I watched them play Rotherham last week and the scoreline (52-17) flattered Rotherham slightly.
“They’ll be pretty big up front but we’re more focusing on ourselves. We’ve not done loads of analysis on Ulster.”
Meanwhile, Beck, says his shoulder problems are hopefully now over. “I have had surgery on it before,” he explained.
“There are more and more shoulder injuries in the game and that’s maybe down to the breakdown. That is getting more and more competitive with people putting their bodies on the line in certain positions.
“It’s well documented that players are bigger and stronger than before and it’s probably more the strain on the body that’s leading to these injuries.
“Hopefully that’s the end of it for me, though, and it seems to have cleared up fine so far.
“I had an operation in the summer and it took a bit longer than expected to come back from but it’s fine now.”
Carnegie make seven changes to their team for tomorrow’s clash with Ulster Ravens.
Fly-half Harry Leonard returns to allow Christian Georgiou to revert to full-back in place of David McIlwaine. Matt Dudman starts at scrum-half with Chris Pilgrim among the replacements.
Ben Harris and Joe Graham return to the front row while Nathan Hannay is back in the second row. Captain Ryan Burrows is replaced by Josh Bainbridge. Jack Ramshaw comes in for the injured Jarad Williams.