BRYAN REDPATH knows his Yorkshire Carnegie side are facing a critical stage of their season starting with today’s trip to London Scottish.
It kicks-off a four-game sequence which is likely to be vital when it comes to jostling for Championship top-four places.
Carnegie are currently third, eight points adrift of leaders Bristol and just one behind second-placed Doncaster Knights.
They host Cornish Pirates next Sunday before visiting Doncaster and then rounding off February by welcoming Bristol to Headingley.
“These are four massive games for us,” admitted head coach Redpath, whose side are certainly in good shape, entering on the back of a six-match winning run.
“We are playing two teams above us in the league and so it’s extremely important; we know we have to win virtually all four of them to have a chance of going above them both.
“It’s not going to be easy as Pirates never is, then we’ve Doncaster away and Bristol at home, while London Scottish are under new ownership with the Scottish RU helping them out, too, with players on loan.
“We beat them in the B&I Cup a few weeks ago but they will be a different animal now.”
Carnegie defeated Scottish 56-7 in that competition at Scarborough but found it much tougher in the away fixture before Christmas, only succeeding 29-24.
Furthermore, they lost their home league encounter against Scottish 30-27 in September so are aware of how competitive they generally are.
Redpath has made 10 changes to the side that defeated the Ospreys Premiership Select in last week’s B&I Cup contest.
Only winger Seb Stegmann, centre Tom Casson, scrum-half Chris Pilgrim, prop Charlie Beech and back-row Richard Beck are retained with England Under-20 players Taylor Prell, Jack Walker – the talented hooker fit again after knee surgery – Max Green and Josh Bainbridge all returning.
Carnegie are without prop Rob O’Donnell, who is ruled out after suffering a head injury against the Ospreys, so Ben Hooper makes his first Championship start of the campaign.
On the bench, prop James Tideswell makes his first appearance since that league loss to Scottish after overcoming injury and spending a loan spell at Huddersfield RUFC, while former Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield gets the nod at fly-half.
Meanwhile, on that SRU link, former Scotland captain Redpath said: “It’s great for London Scottish that the SRU have made that commitment to try and strengthen and make it better.
“I’m not sure of the ins and outs but generally such change does get a reaction and Scottish have gone on to win their last two games.
“We know it’s going to be an extremely tough game and, for me, it’s massive as it will show how much we’ve learned from previous matches played against them.”