YORKSHIRE Carnegie captain Richard Mayhew says he is “excited” by the new-look side put out to try and win tomorrow’s Championship Cup quarter-final against Bedford Blues.
After last week’s league 29-7 loss at Ealing Trailfinders – the club’s first defeat in eight games – director of rugby Chris Stirling has made seven changes for the Emerald Headingley contest.
With one eye on their return to Championship action next week, he has made significant alterations in the backs and up front, too.
It includes a new-look midfield partnership with prolific New Zealander winger Elijah Niko shifting to No13 and on-loan Wasps full-back Jacob Umaga moving alongside him at inside centre.
Winger Chris Elder switches to No15 and wingers Harry Davey and George Watkins come in.
“I’m quite excited by the changes,” admitted openside Mayhew.
“It keeps it fresh and the guys playing in midfield bring something different; Elijah is very powerful and Jake is a really good distributor, very skilful.
“But in the forward pack as well there’s guys coming in who are really hungry and have been impressing in training.
“They get an opportunity and will want to push for a spot in Nottingham next Friday. It’s always exciting to mix it up a bit.”
Up front, Mayhew, tighthead prop Andy Foster and No8 Dan Temm retain their places. Nic Mayhew makes his second start for the team in the front-row which is completed by hooker Dylan Donnellan.
Cian Romaine is back in the second-row where he will partner Will Britton who has returned for a third loan spell from Premiership side Bath Rugby along with Sam Nixon, who is amongst the replacements.
Academy graduate Lewis Wilson also comes into the back-row as Carnegie seek to overcome a Bedford side that has moved up to third in the Championship.
The hosts’ priority has been their league form but they are just two games from reaching the final of the inaugural Championship Cup.
Mayhew added: “After last weekend’s first half (Carnegie led 7-0 at second-placed Ealing) that second half was disappointing.
“We conceded more than 20 points but it probably didn’t show a fair reflection of the game.
“We’d won the last few games up to Ealing although we didn’t play particular well in that run.
“So, as well as this being a quarter-final, it’s important for us to get some momentum towards Nottingham next Friday.
“It’s up to us to build some confidence now and getting into a semi-final would do that.”
Meanwhile, Mayhew is making progress after making his return from a four-month injury in the win at Doncaster Knights on December 29.
“It’s sort of a weird one,” said the New Zealander.
“It feels like pre-season games again I’ve been out that long. I’m not 100 per cent yet. I’m getting there but I’ve got a lot more to give. Hopefully I can put in a big performance on Sunday to help us keep building.”