CHRIS ELDER believes unfancied Yorkshire Carnegie can show they are worthy of being considered as title contenders over the next two games.
The ex-London Welsh full-back lines up on the wing for them as they head to high-flying Ealing Trailfinders on Saturday.
Carnegie – last season’s beaten Championship play-off finalists – are currently in sixth place after a mixed start to 2017-18 and few people have given them a chance of winning the league now it has reverted to first-past-the-post.
They are already 12 points behind leaders Bristol – the overwhelming favourites to earn promotion – but they host them at Emerald Headingley a week tomorrow.
If, then, James Lowes’ side can upset second-placed Ealing, whose only loss was against unbeaten Bristol, they will be in good stead to get back on track.
“We’ve been a bit up and down and had a couple of weeks that we’ve really not been happy with,” said Elder.
“Obviously the results have shown that but we still believe that actually we are a team that can compete at the highest level in this competition.
“We feel going into the weekend we have a very good chance of doing Ealing over and getting the win and we see no reason not to believe that we will.
“Bristol tripped up before and it’s just about trying to stay in the group behind them.”
Bristol did lose the last time they were in the second tier in 2015-16 but only twice on the way to finishing top and securing a play-off final win over Doncaster Knights.
Carnegie have lost twice already and Elder admitted: “We know we can’t really afford too many losses. We didn’t start strongly. The first loss at London Scottish was one that we just had to write off as we’d not had any pre-season games which was down to squad size.
“But now we’re looking forward and we have to focus on making sure each week is a win and try to stay in that top part of the table. There was no game last weekend so the boys are fresh and have had a bit of time to get some drills done.
“We’re all really looking forward to taking on Ealing and getting going again.”
Carnegie beat Ealing in last season’s semi-finals but they have invested heavily for this campaign, strengthened their squad and won six of their opening seven matches.
“Last year they were pretty solid and doing quite well so I expected them to do quite well this year,” added Elder, who is relishing playing on their opponents’ artificial surface.
“They have obviously made some investments and wanted to grow the club a little bit and I’m not that surprised about the results that are coming out. They are a very solid team and I expected them to come out strong. We’re confident going there, though, and I’m a massive fan of 3G pitches. It’s a true surface, and it really feeds a quick, fast, clean game.”
Having been full-back in his first six appearances this term, the ex-Wasps player switched to wing in the victory over Bedford Blues last time out, scoring his fifth try of the campaign.
Elder, 25, said: “I actually prefer centre more than both but have always been a player people try to swap around and it is partly because I can do it.
“I don’t mind going on the wing; I quite enjoy the freedom you get every so often and that allows you to express yourself.”