REALISTIC Yorkshire Carnegie captain Richard Mayhew knows his side must vastly improve if they are to have any chance of springing a surprise defeat on unbeaten Championship leaders Bristol tonight.
The promotion favourites arrive at Emerald Headingley having won all eight league games so far, very much looking like a side intent on making an immediate return to the top-flight.
Carnegie, on the other hand, were swept aside 44-19 at second-placed Ealing Trailfinders last week and remain beset by injury problems in key areas although they are lifted by the return of popular centre Fred Burdon after a season with Premiership Newcastle Falcons.
Openside Mayhew is fit to resume after coming off at Ealing and admitted: “Bristol have been playing pretty well.
“They have a strong squad and a big squad, too. It will be a major challenge but we know what we’re taking on.
“We’re confident, if we turn up, we can do something.
“We dominated the line-out and the scrum at Ealing but just lacked a bit of control in the right areas. We created a lot of line-breaks but just didn’t finish them off and ended up making 25 handling errors. You can’t do that. It was frustrating.
“We can take positives but we know we have to be really clinical against Bristol.
“They have a very good side from one to 22, look to throw the ball around and have won all their games so far.
“But teams have shown that they are vulnerable at the set-piece if you get stuck into them. Richmond and Ealing both did that and we’ll look to do the same.
Teams have shown that they are vulnerable at the set-piece if you get stuck into them. Richmond and Ealing both did that and we’ll look to do the same.Yorkshire Carnegie’s captain Richard Mayhew
“A Friday night in Leeds ... it might be a bit cold, it might not be ideal for them.”
Head coach James Lowes makes just two changes to his starting XV.
Andy Forsyth is ruled out with a knee injury so Chris Elder reverts to centre with Louis Brown coming in on the wing.
Charlie Beech comes in at tight-head prop given Elliot Millar-Mills’ loan arrangement has ended and he has asked to look at other options to pursue his international hopes in Scotland.
However, makeshift fly-half Pete Lucock and centre Tom Casson, who, like Mayhew, both departed injured at Ealing, are able to resume.
Young prop Charlie Capps returns on the bench where he is joined by Burdon who has not played since leaving Newcastle in May but has been training with Carnegie for the last few weeks to regain his fitness.
He has now agreed a deal at Headingley and Aucklander Mayhew, 32, said: “It’s brilliant to have him back. I saw him play a bit at Newcastle, all the guys here respect him. He’ll bring us something extra.”