‘Exciting’ rugby helps earn Blackett new deal

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CHAIRMAN Nick Cragg feels Lee Blackett could lead Rotherham Titans into the Premiership during the course of the burgeoning head coach’s new two-year deal.

At 31, Blackett may be the youngest Championship chief but he has quickly made his mark with the club since retiring as a player and taking over from Alex Codling at the end of last season.

Victory over Connacht at Clifton Lane today would keep them on course for a B&I Cup quarter-final place, while they are also riding high in the league in second spot.

Given the exciting brand of football they are playing, too, Cragg did not think twice about quickly extending the ex-Rotherham and Leeds Carnegie winger’s contract.

“We are delighted that Lee Blackett has committed his future to the club,” he said.

“He has made a very promising start to his career as head coach of Rotherham Titans.

“We realise Lee is ambitious and in time we know he’d like to coach at the highest level possible; hopefully the next level can happen here at Rotherham Titans within the next two years.”

Blackett, who scored 13 tries in 74 games for the South Yorkshire club, said: “Rotherham is my club; it always has been and it always will be.

“It’s where I started my playing career and it’s where I’ve started my coaching career and I’m absolutely delighted to be staying.

“We’ve done well so far in terms of results this season, but at this stage it’s just half a job.

“There was a little bit of interest from the outside, but for me at this moment in time Clifton Lane is the only place I want to be.

“I would feel ridiculously bad and I couldn’t live with myself if I left the club at this point.”

Strength and conditioning coach Josh Fletcher, whose expertise has widely been acknowledged for Rotherham’s much-improved fitness this term, has also signed a two-year deal.

Leeds, meanwhile, hope to maintain their last-eight hopes, too, when they visit Scottish side Gala this afternoon.

Having vanquished their hosts 86-8 at York in October, another routine victory is expected which will, then, set up a winner-takes-all tie with Bristol at Headingley in a week’s time.

Leeds coach Jimmy Lowes has named a strong side with captain Jacob Rowan and hooker Joe Graham both returning after missing last week’s Championship win at Plymouth with concussion.

New signings Jon Clarke and Harry Casson, on loan from Premiership side Worcester Warriors, make first starts for the club while on-loan Bath prop Charlie Beech is named in a new-look front-row.

In National One, leaders Doncaster see winger Paul Jarvis return to the starting line-up and centre Jacob Woodhouse makes his first start as they host Cinderford, while ex-England winger Dan Scarbrough is back for Wharfedale as they host Tynedale.