Aviva premiership: New year, new look – new hope?
Leeds Carnegie believe so. For the visit of Gloucester today Leeds have named a brand spanker of a half-back axis which they hope will finally get their season moving in the right direction.
After nine defeats in nine Premiership games Scott Mathie and Ceiron Thomas have been moved to the bench and to full-back respectively, with Warren Fury and Lachlan MacKay coming in as a fresh scrum- and fly-half starting partnership.
MacKay, the versatile former Australia international, has started only two Premiership games at fly-half – the successive home defeats to Sale and Wasps – while Fury has had to sit patiently on the bench. But after they inspired a comprehensive home win over Italians Crociati Rugby three weeks ago, Andy Key believes it is now time to unleash them on the Premiership – albeit a few days late after they were named together to face Newcastle in the postponed Boxing Day fixture.
"Lachlan demonstrated in the Crociati game that he plays the game with tempo, with pace and he knows how to control a game," said Leeds's director of rugby.
"Lachlan doesn't mind taking the opposition on, he'll have a crack at them, and that's always something that's important where your opponents don't know where your 10s running, where he's kicking, where he's passing. The very best 10s have always been difficult to read.
"With him and Scott Barrow (centre) we have two very knowledgable guys that can control the game.
"We know Lachlan came more as a 12 but with the strong capabilities of playing 10 and he can't wait for the challenge.
"He'll bring a little bit of spark but it's about composure and balance. With Ceiron now as 15, and Scott at 12 we have great combinations at 10, 12 and 15.
"Once you start getting more guys who can control the game on the field, who can all become first receiver, then it brings a hugely different dimension to your game and we're now starting to put a side on the field who can control a game."
And the man feeding that interchangeable back-line is Fury, a close-season recruit from Wasps who, despite starting every game in Europe and the LV Cup, has made only seven appearances from the bench in the Premiership.
"There were a couple of motivations for bringing in Warren," said Key. "Firstly he has waited patiently in the wings and each time he has come on the field, within reason, he has shown what he's capable of.
"Secondly you have to look at the balance of the side and where you want to bring that impact into the game. And there's no two ways about it, Scott Mathie coming off the bench brings massive impact to a game. He brings unbelievable pace.
"These days its not about your 15, it's about your 23 and how do you best use them over 80 minutes."
The festive postponements have left Leeds rooted to the foot of the table, seven points adrift of Newcastle, and a million miles from the summer optimism of a crack at the top six.
The poor start has led to a reassessment of targets, one that Key feels will better serve the players.
"For us now if we come 11th, we come 11th, that's what it needs to be," he said.
"Every player and every member of staff is working all hours to ensure that is achieved. We have a side now that appreciates where it is, how it needs to fight and how it needs to battle.
"Anybody that comes to the game today will see a very different Leeds side as it takes on Gloucester."