THE British & Irish Cup is not always the most popular of competitions for Championship clubs who sometimes view it as added games they can well do without.
However, both Leeds Carnegie and Doncaster Knights will see it as a useful tool today if their games survive the looming threat of inclement weather.
Although neither can actually qualify for the quarter-finals when they play their last pool game, each have named relatively strong squads.
That is primarily because both Yorkshire clubs are fully aware of the importance of next week’s return to Championship action and are looking to get their sides some much-needed momentum.
Leeds, who welcome back hooker Scott Freer after nine months out with a knee injury for today’s visit from Leinster A, certainly have one eye on Friday’s league trip to Bristol.
Head coach Diccon Edwards has recalled captain Jacob Rowan to the starting line-up, Harlequins loanee Rory Clegg continues at fly-half and leading try-scorer David Doherty returns on the wing.
Loosehead Sam Lockwood also comes in as does lock Calum Green as Leeds look for a positive result at the end of a frustrating week which saw their Championship win over Plymouth controversially quashed due to the poor state of their Headingley pitch.
Pool Five leaders Leinster A, realistically need only a point to cement their progression into the knockout stages having won four of their five games so far, including an emphatic 47-18 opening victory over Leeds in Ireland last October.
Edwards realises the visitors will not let up in a game which has been switched to West Park Leeds with an 11.30am kick-off.
“As a squad they are preparing for a vitally important Heineken Cup game,” he said, with European champions Leinster in real danger of being knocked out at Exeter this afternoon.
“So, as a squad, I’m sure they will have been extremely focused and training at a real high intensity and standard.
“That is something we have had to really drive for this week because obviously we know the threat we will be facing.
“But we are focussing on ourselves at the same time.
“We are a team that has been playing well in the last couple of weeks and certainly developing.
“While we know it’s going to be a huge challenge, it’s one we are looking forward to.”
Leeds won 27-12 in Jersey last week – their first victory in the competition this season.
“When we set off for the trip to Leinster last time out, we hoped for good things in the British and Irish Cup,” admitted Edwards.
“We came home disappointed with where we were at in terms of performance and now it will be a good opportunity for us to assess how far we have come in that space of time and also to use it as a springboard into the league game against Bristol.
“There are a few changes from the team who played against Jersey.
“I think it is important that we try and test some combinations before going into that Bristol match.”
Second-row Mike Myerscough, meanwhile, is hopeful of being fit in time for that Championship fixture following an injury which has sidelined him for almost three months.
Doncaster are confident their fixture in Scotland will go ahead as hosts Melrose have an alternative venue available with undersoil heating.
Clive Griffiths’s side – bottom of the Championship – have a huge league game at home to London Scottish on Friday and he is taking the opportunity to encourage further improvement after a narrow B&I Cup defeat to Nottingham last week.
Doncaster prop Jack Bergmanas makes only his second start for the club but his first at hooker as he helps avert a mini-crisis in the No 2 role; Will Hafu was injured last weekend, joining Ben Sowery on the sidelines, while Rhys Buckley is currently suspended.
Props Tomas Francis and Brian McGovern return in the front row, while Royce Cadman and Andy Boyde also return to the starting line-up with openside Adam Kettle making a timely return from his own injury problems.
Full-back Michael Keating, so impressive against Nottingham in his first game since the opening day of the season, will bid to gain further match fitness while Jamie Lennard, who provided such a quality cameo off the bench last week, earns a deserved start at fly-half.
Rotherham Titans, meanwhile, are the only members of Yorkshire’s triumvirate of Championship sides who can still make the last eight but today’s crucial home game with Aberavon has been postponed due to a frozen pitch.