Yorkshire Carnegie v Ealing Trailfinders: A lot more to come from improving Yorkshire Carnegie says boss Stirling

Marc Thomas.
Yorkshire Carnegie v Doncaster Knights.Marc Thomas.
Yorkshire Carnegie v Doncaster Knights.
Marc Thomas. Yorkshire Carnegie v Doncaster Knights.
AS IN-FORM YORKSHIRE Carnegie prepare to face title-chasing Ealing Trailfinders, director of rugby Chris Stirling insists: “We’ve not even hit our straps yet.”

The club are on a seven-game winning run including three successive Championship victories that have lifted them clear of bottom spot.

The visit of second-placed Ealing tomorrow will be their biggest challenge yet in this current sequence.

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However, Stirling said: “They’ll test us but we’re looking forward to the challenge and at the moment, too, we’re enjoying Headingley and being at home.

“We’re confident we can go and put a performance on the field. Whether it’s going to be good enough time will tell but I’m confident we can put a performance on.

“Ealing play a very physical game; they come round the corner hard and have good athletes.

“But the exciting thing is –and you can take it as a little bit frustrating at times, too – that we haven’t hit our straps yet.

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“We’re moving closer towards it and I know myself and (head coach) Steve Boden will not have to talk about the ‘why’ this weekend as there’s already an edge here.

“It’s just a matter of talking about the ‘how’.”

After last week’s remarkable win at Richmond, winger Elijah Niko returns with George Watkins reverting to the bench while scrum-half JB Bruzulier starts with Sam Wolstenholme heading to the replacements.

Up front, Marc Thomas returns to loosehead prop with Nic Mayhew dropping to the replacements. Back-row Josh Bainbridge (neck), Canada international Jake Ilnicki (knee injury and Mike Myerscough (head) are injured while Myles Thoroughgood and Tom Hill are both ruled out through illness.

Stirling admitted: “We’re quite lucky in that we’re staying relatively injury-free; we’ve got guys on deck and there’s competition for places.

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“What we have to take into account, too, is the next three matches as we’ve got the (Championship) Cup (quarter-final) against Bedford next Sunday and then a short turnaround for Nottingham on the Friday. So we have to make sure over the next two weeks we maximise players’ availability and performance and we can get through that injury-free, too.”

Meanwhile, the RFU has confirmed that the Championship Cup tackle height trial will not continue for the knockout stages of the competition.

As a result, match officials will revert to the original definition of a high tackle moving back to above the line of the shoulders from above the armpit line which was the amendment trialled in the pool stages of the competition.

Although the aim of lowering tackle heights was achieved during the trial, including a 41 per cent decrease in the number of tackles where contact was made with the head or neck of the ball carrier, the second aim – a reduction in concussion risk – was not.

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A statement said: “There was an unanticipated increase in concussion risk to the tackler where contact was made above the armpit line with a bent at the waist ball carrier.”

The RFU is now analysing the data in more detail as it prepares a final report to be taken for discussion to the World Rugby meeting in France in March.