Scrumming down with Red Rose lifts Leeds

Leeds Carnegie's 'Phil Nilsen.
Leeds Carnegie's 'Phil Nilsen.
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Leeds Carnegie hooker Phil Nilsen says this week’s scrummaging session with the England team has given the Championship club a huge confidence boost.

Stuart Lancaster took the likes of Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola and Dan Cole to Kirkstall for a forwards session on Wednesday.

And long-serving Nilsen is delighted to report that the Leeds boys more than held their own against the international pack.

“We knew the previous week that they were coming up but you never believe it until it’s really happening and it was an absolutely cracking day,” said Nilsen.

“We worked on scrums, lineouts and mauls, and as a unit, we did really well against England.

“Then in the afternoon we did attack versus defence drills.

“We’ve had a big improvement in the scrums and the set-piece this year, so to then hold our own against the England scrum is a real boost because we know how strong an outfit they are.

“Some of our lads were a bit apprehensive going in, but to come out of it having held our own, and turned a few scrums and forced them back a few times, is a real boost to our confidence.”

Much of the credit for Leeds’s improved scrummaging goes to Tommy McGee, the former Scotland A prop and long-standing Carnegie player who made his temporary move from Wharfedale permanent in the summer.

“That’s the big thing about what Tommy McGee has brought over,” continued Nilsen.

“He’s big on the forwards and has really impressed upon us the importance of the set-piece and the lads are responding.”

As far as long-standing goes, the fact that Nilsen at 28 is the longest-serving player currently on Carnegie’s books, underlines just how young this Leeds squad really is.

James Lowes’s side look to make it four wins out of five in the Greene King IPA Championship at struggling Moseley today, with lineout chief Nilsen one of the experienced leaders the head coach is relying on.

Nilsen, who has made 56 starts and a further 58 off the bench, said: “I’ve been here since the academy days when I was 17. I’ve seen a lot of people comes through the doors, a lot of good people, and good influences.”

Glyn Hughes continues at fly-half following two impressive performances in the British & Irish Cup with Alex Lozowski amongst the replacements.

Leeds also welcome back winger Jonah Holmes from injury while Calum Green returns in the second row.