Despite sitting in second place and well clear of the chasing pack, Yorkshire Carnegie’s head coach Bryan Redpath has described today’s trip to Nottingham as “huge”, with the hard work now fully setting in as the season reaches its second half.
The game also gives Carnegie’s new signings Chris Elder and Ben West the chance to showcase their wealth of “quality and experience” that Redpath praised them for earlier last week.
The pair were recently signed from London Welsh after the club were placed into liquidation due to financial difficulties and will be set to compete against their former club on New Year’s Day after a new company were given a temporary licence for the club by the RFU in order to fulfil their next two fixtures.
In terms of the Nottingham match, full-back Elder will go straight into the starting line-up, while second row West will be on the bench, with both players’ Championship experience with Welsh being seen as a huge advantage for Carnegie.
“You can’t underestimate people’s knowledge of what competition they’re going into,” said Redpath.
“Sometimes it takes people six months to a year to find their feet whereas these lads have been playing...right up until two weeks ago.”
Carnegie will also be given further boosts through Matt Smith and Richard Mayhew’s return from injury into their respective second and back row positions, while captain Ryan Burrows will go straight back into the starting 15 after being rested for their British and Irish Cup matches with Newport Gwent Dragons.
Nottingham also have a returning player of their own, with winger James Stephenson coming back into the side after two weeks out through injury. He is one of four changes made by Nottingham coach Ian Costello, including lock Toby Freeman, centre Charlie Thacker and winger Calum Hall.
The fixture will also be Carnegie’s first league game in over three weeks, since beating Bedford Blues 28-15 and Redpath has described their return to league action as a vital moment in the club’s season.
“These two games are huge for us,” he said. “Just to make sure we maintain the continuity and the momentum we have.
“We’re going to be challenged along the way now because we’re there to be shot at so every team’s going to want to have a crack at us, so that side of our mentality needs to be strong and we need to improve that because we’re in a real position now to cement these play-off spots early on.”
Nottingham are one of a number of clubs fighting for a place in the play-offs, with Carnegie’s previous game against them this season resulting in a narrow 26-24 win, with penalties from Joe Ford proving the difference between the sides. Redpath therefore knows full well just how tough taking a win from Lady Bay will be.
“Nottingham at the start of the season and this year have been very good,” he said. “They are playing a brand of rugby that is expansive and has got high tempo so there are no easy games anymore.”