While England seek a second successive clean sweep of Europe’s leading nations in Dublin today, tomorrow in Doncaster, a Yorkshire Carnegie side led by former Scotland scrum-half Bryan Redpath bid to secure a grand slam of their own.
For as much as the securing of a Championship play-off place is at stake between the county’s leading teams tomorrow at Castle Park, there is also the matter of the Yorkshire Regiment Trophy.
Introduced at the start of the 2012-13 season, the Trophy awarded to the winner of a mini-league contested by the county’s Championship teams has been won every year by Carnegie, except for 2014-15 when Lee Blackett’s Titans claimed the prize.
Carnegie have already scooped this year’s award, even should they lose tomorrow, but a fourth win over county rivals this term will serve as a huge boost heading into the end-of-season play-offs.
Because this second meeting of the season – one chosen for the Sky Television cameras – may not be the last with the second-placed Carnegie and third-placed Knights on a collision course for a play-off semi-final rematch in May.
“What better place to get back on track than at the team that knocked us out of the play-offs last season,” said Redpath, whose side come into the game on a wretched run of form, having lost four successive games.
“Clive likes to have things up his sleeve which we have to deal with. I have a lot of time for the guys down at Doncaster and that will be a big motivator for them as well.
“But if we win we can guarantee top four. We understand the magnitude of the game.
“Doncaster had a poor start but have played really well the last month, while you look at our recent run people will be wondering what’s going on. But the effort has been outstanding.”
That said, the results have been woeful, which leaves Carnegie needing to reassert a modicum of authority ahead of the promotion play-offs.
London Irish have set the standard and will take some stopping, but ahead of next season’s first-past-the-post promotion system, Carnegie could do with laying down a marker this term.
A good close to the regular season campaign and a reclaiming of momentum would go a long way to aiding that.
“It’s massively important for us,” said Redpath. “We’ve got Doncaster, Richmond, Bedford away and then Ealing left to play.
“As a group of players it’s time for them to stand up. Knockout stages are all about mentality, if you have that right and you execute, then you get what you want out of the game.
“Right now we’re still in a one-game-at-a-time mentality.”
Carnegie have recalled Joe Ford and Alex Davies after injury. Ford missed his first Championship game of the season last time out against London Irish with a knee injury.
West Leeds RUFC will have their sights set on Twickenham today when they line up at home to Aspatria in the quarter-finals of the RFU Intermediate Cup.
It’s been another successful season for the team, and if they can make it to the final this year it will be their third trip to the home of Rugby Union in as many years.
They visited HQ last season when they won the National Senior Vase with a 42-22 win over Withycombe, and they are hoping to make it all the way this season.
The team are also flying high in the league, and sit comfortably in second place in Yorkshire Division 1 with just four fixtures remaining.
Backs coach Phil Christopher said: “We’re all really looking forward to the game. We’ve had two fantastic seasons and this year we’ve exceeded all expectations”.
The West Leeds side is built on a rock solid defence, which Christopher says they’ll be relying upon when they play Aspatria, a strong outfit who are in second place in the equivalent Cumbrian league.
Christopher added: “The lads have been awesome, every game is a cup final at this stage. Aspatria are a tough team and will come at us all guns blazing.”
As the last side from Yorkshire left in the competition, they are encouraging fans to show their support by donning flat caps for the game.
“We’ve been supported massively on our journey,” said Christopher. “We’re doing it not just for Leeds but for Yorkshire too, we enjoy representing the county”.
The game takes place at 2.30pm at Bluehill Lane, Wortley.