FOR Yorkshire Carnegie’s new signing Chris Elder, it is easy to understand why a swift reunion with stricken former employers London Welsh will prove such a strange experience tomorrow.
The rangy full-back only joined along with team-mate Ben West three days before Christmas, a raft of players leaving the Exiles as the uncertainty around the financially-troubled club’s future continued.
Indeed, they went into liquidation the following day although they were granted a temporary licence to play their next two Championship games – a Christmas Eve derby with London Scottish duly won 37-5 and, now, a New Year’s Day trip to Headingley.
However, amid all the strife – Welsh have been in the High Court four times this year, are due again on January 23 over an unpaid £90,000 tax bill and entered voluntary liquidation on December 7 – Elder also became a father for the first time to add to starting life at a new club and some extra commuting.
He signed with Carnegie until the end of the season and debuted in their 24-17 Boxing Day win at Nottingham which sees them remain second, behind only leaders London Irish.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Evening Post, the talented 24-year-old said: “Florence arrived just over three weeks ago and she is a little wonderful bundle of fun. There’s been a lot of sleepless nights recently and long drives, too.
“It is a bit chaotic but I’m thrusting myself into it all.
“I’ve got family and friends who I have been able to stay with (in the north) and then it’s a case of getting back down there when I can and on my days off. Carnegie have been really welcoming and it was great to be running around on the pitch again at Nottingham, a few of the worries of previous games now off my shoulders.
“I’ve signed for six months as – with our new arrival – I didn’t want to sign up too long as I just wanted to get my head around the logistics of everything.
“It is going to be a bit odd playing against Welsh now.
“But it’s always a good experience playing against those you know, if a bit more challenging when you know each other’s game so well. There’s been some serious battles between these sides at this ground in the past and hopefully I’ll be on the other side of it this time.”
Ironically, Elder’s last game at Headingley was in April when he helped Welsh beat Carnegie in the British & Irish Cup final.
He also scored the match-winning try when the Exiles won 10-7 there last season.
“The B&I Cup final is one of my favourite memories of my time there,” said Elder, who also scored a try on his Premiership debut with Welsh against his first club Wasps in April 2015.
“We’d gone on a great run culminating in being able to take something from what had been a very disappointing first half of the campaign.
“It is really sad what’s happened now. I hope they do manage to get something together, back into shape so they can last in the Championship and make a fight of it.
“A lot of the lads have coped really well; they’ve carried on, embraced the new part-time set-up and just got on with it.
“They want to play rugby and got a big win against London Scottish on Christmas Eve which is brilliant for them. These are really struggling times but hopefully they can ride out this storm.”
Welsh, in the top flight barely 18 months ago, now train two days per week and have lost half their senior players with many of those remaining taking on other jobs.
As a result of liquidation, the famous old club has also been deducted 20 points, slumping from fifth to bottom, and the new company has until January 16 to prove to the RFU it can fulfil its Championship fixtures.
YORKSHIRE Carnegie will hand a belated debut to new signing Ben West against his former employers tomorrow.
The lock, 24, joined from London Welsh just before Christmas along with full-back Chris Elder.
He was initially named on the bench for the Boxing Day win at Nottingham but suffered a slight hamstring strain and so missed out.
However, West will start against Welsh when the troubled Championship club – docked 20 points for entering liquidation – arrive at Headingley.
At six foot six, he adds real presence to their pack and also has Premiership experience having played 10 top-flight games with the Exiles in 2014-15.
West replaces Dan Sanderson who drops to the replacements bench.
Elder, too, lines up against his old colleagues having successfully enjoyed his Carnegie debut in that win at Nottingham which keeps Bryan Redpath’s side in second place.
Head coach Redpath recalls centre Tom Casson due to an injury for Andy Forsyth as his side seek their 12th win from 13 league outings in 2016-17.
In the only other change, Oli Goss comes in for ex-Welsh winger Seb Stegmann who has also picked up an injury.
Their opponents have seen their own squad decimated after being beset by financial issues but they did pick up a win over London Scottish on Christmas Eve to show they still do pose plenty of threat.