Limitations see Howells relishing the challenge

PRACTICES have been changing at Castle Park, but ambitions remain the same.

Doncaster Knights have had to re-evaluate finances as the credit crunch pinches with a slashing of playing budgets for this season resulting in wage cuts across the board. Full-time professionals have had to take part-time jobs or look to furthering their education to help supplement their day job which is to consolidate Doncaster's position among the leading clubs in the division.

"They've responded well to it," said director of rugby Lynn Howells, who himself has taken a pay cut on the eve of his fourth season in charge. which begins at Cornish Pirates tomorrow.

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"It's a breath of fresh air. When you're constantly in a rugby environment you don't get a chance to have a break, at least there's now chance for them to do other things that takes their mind off rugby, they are certainly fresher coming into training. We all took the hit but it hasn't affected my enthusiasm – it generated a different outlook and it's benefitted me as well."

Doncaster have brought in 13 new players over the summer as they look to improve on their seventh-place finish last season.

But perhaps their biggest signing, and a move that underlines how much dependence on their own resources has diminished, is the dual-registration deal they have set up with Leeds Carnegie.

Otley and Rotherham in past seasons have utilised the Headingley club's vast academy resources but this is new territory for Doncaster, who have already acquired three players for the new season from their Yorkshire rivals; fly-half Christian Lewis-Pratt, lock James Craig, and flanker and England Under-18s captain Chris Walker.

"We didn't want to get a blanket across any number of players, it had to be in areas that suited us and Leeds were positive about it," said Howells, who has also set-up a similar deal with Newcastle.

"The link with Leeds is pretty fluid, they've also made a statement that if we have an injury and provided they have players in that position, they will loan us players. The budget has affected the recruitment of players, the numbers in the squad have had to be reduced."

Howells has recruited from across the leagues but the man he hopes to build his attack around is fly-half Tristan Roberts from Moseley.

"He's a good all-round rugby player,and our ethos will be to entertain," added Howells.