YORKSHIRE Carnegie start the new Championship season tonight with lock Mike Myerscough knowing first-hand just how new director of rugby Chris Stirling can improve their chances of success.
Once a talent identification manager with New Zealand Rugby, and later a high-performance general manager for Super Rugby The Hurricanes, Stirling arrived in Leeds in March tasked with eventually getting Carnegie back into the Premiership.
He has certainly made significant changes at the club and, with forwards coach Steve Boden now head coach after James Lowes’ surprise exit in June, the Kiwi will look for a positive start when they visit Hartpury College this evening.
However, while some people may have initially wondered what his appointment may entail, Myerscough had no such concerns.
“I spent three years with him down at Cornish Pirates so I know quite a lot about him,” he said.
“From when Chris came in there, we went on to win the British & Irish Cup in 2010 and then challenged in the Championship final against Worcester the following year and again versus London Welsh in 2012.
He develops a great culture and lets us know exactly what he expects from us all. Everyone is a lot more educated and knows what they’re doing before the season starts.Mike Myerscough on Chris Stirling
“What he’s bringing here now is exactly what he brought to the Pirates.
“He develops a great culture and lets us know exactly what he expects from us all.
“Everyone is a lot more educated and knows what they’re doing before the season starts.
“The boys have been working hard and we feel ready to start now.”
Myerscough, 31, added: “When there was another (coaching) change – and there’s been quite a few in the seven years I’ve been here – there was some questions around the changing room.
“But I didn’t need to convince anyone or talk to anyone about Chris.
“He did that himself. The detail he brings in every aspect of the operation, the focus and the changes he made, meant he instantly got people to follow.
“Everyone has bought into what he wants to bring to us.
“He’s got a good squad in place with a mix of senior players and great youth coming through the academy. I think we’re in a strong position.”
Although reaching the now defunct Championship final in 2016-17 before losing to London Irish in Bryan Redpath’s last campaign, Carnegie – with a severely reduced budget – finished sixth last term under Lowes.
They are under-financed again compared to a number of rivals in the Championship and have a comparatively small squad.
But, in terms of playing style, Myerscough insisted: “We’ll look to be a lot more structured.
“Bodes (Steve Boden) has added detail in the line-out and scrum, Chris has helped out a little bit with defensive organisation and we have a system in place there which we’ve probably not had in the last few years.
“Bodes has taken on our attack and that’s looking very tasty.
“All we’ve concentrated is getting ready for this first game against Hartpury.”
Carnegie had two tough games against the newly-promoted side last term, drawing 29-29 in Gloucestershire after being 26-11 down at half-time, and then edging a narrow 20-16 win at Headingley.
“They bedded in well last season and had a great first half performance against us down there,” recalled Myerscough.
“We were pretty slow off the coach and we had to fight back to get a draw.
“We’ve mainly concentrated on us for this though and our own processes - how we execute, defend and attack as a team. We’ve spent a lot of time on us.”
Frustratingly for Myerscough, he is not in the squad for tonight’s trip to the south west as he continues his rehabilitation from injury. He is three weeks away from a return.
There are six debutants in the Carnegie starting XV. Canadian internationals Dan Moor and Jake Ilnicki both get a chance to impress with fellow new recruit in Rowan Jenkins taking his place in the front row.
There is a new half-back partnership with Brendan Cope having joined tfrom Jersey Reds and former Worcester scrum-half JB Bruzulier returning from a spell in France.
Dan Temm starts at No 8 having moved to Carnegie from Ealing Trailfinders this summer having previously played at Otley.