THERE will not be much need for second-guessing when Yorkshire Carnegie forwards coach Steve Boden sees his former Jersey colleagues arrive at Headingley tonight.
He held the same role with their Championship rivals for four years before moving back ‘home’ to Leeds in the summer to take charge of their pack.
Boden has made an instant impact given the Carnegie forwards already look much improved on last term and head into this game having won all six league games so far.
Jersey, meanwhile, won their opening two Championship fixtures but lost their next four plus a British & Irish Cup match against Ulster before finally returning to winning ways in that competition last week versus Cardiff Blues.
“On paper they have a hell of a squad but they have lost a few players to injury which has disrupted them a bit and not helped,” said ex-Doncaster Knights hooker Boden.
“They have struggled and are in a bit of a rough patch but, if anything, that makes them a bit more dangerous on Friday than if they’d been winning.
“They’ll be really hungry for a victory and it’s a massive potential banana skin for us.
“I know their forwards coach (Alex Rae) extremely well – I coached him as a player – and they are doing quite a few things similar to last year.
“But he has also put his own stamp on things, too. He’ll know a lot about what I do here and vice versa but we can’t focus on that. Essentially, what we have to do is everything a little bit better than them.”
Jersey’s captain and lock Alex Rae retired at the end of last season to replace Boden who is now thriving in his new role at Headingley.
“I’m loving being back home,” he said, having initially played in the club’s Academy before joining Hull Ionians and then making 188 appearances for Doncaster.
“I absolutely loved it in Jersey. I thank the club in a massive way for giving me the opportunity to get into coaching when I had to retire early at 30 due to a neck injury.
“I had four really good years out there and wouldn’t change anything. It’s a beautiful place to live and we met some amazing people out there. If anyone ever asked about joining the club I’d always say ‘Go for it.’ But I’m a Leeds boy through and through and the opportunity to come back here was too strong.”
Carnegie have lost just once since Boden came on board, at Ealing in the B&I Cup before quickly responding versus Bedford Blues in the same competition at Selby on Saturday. On the way the pack has adapted to his methods, and Boden said: “They’ve done well to be fair to them. We’ve changed some things and they have bought into that.
“In fact, they have to take the credit; I have an influence to a certain extent but I don’t go out there on the field any more. They do. Sometimes I think I could – but then I see the size of them and realise no!”
Head coach Bryan Redpath has made nine changes to the side who beat Bedford.
They include Jonah Holmes and Seb Stegmann returning on the wings, Joe Ford starting at No10 and Lewis Boyce, Matt Smith, Dean Schofield and Richard Beck all back in the pack.
Scotland prop Michael Cusack, who rejoined from Newcastle Falcons, is set to make his second ‘debut’ from the bench.