Pendlebury delighted with double tilt against Rotherham

The fixture list has thrown up an opening month to relish for Leeds Carnegie stalwart Jonathan Pendlebury.

For the 28-year-old second-row will go head-to-head with hometown club Rotherham twice in the opening three weeks of the season.

Diccon Edwards’s side visit Clifton Lane on Saturday, September 10, just six days after opening their season at home to London Welsh at Headingley Carnegie.

They also host Rotherham on Wednesday, September 21, in the opening pool match of the British and Irish Cup.

Titans, under Andre Bester, open against London Scottish in the capital on Saturday, September 3, the same day that Brett Davey marks his first game in charge of Doncaster Knights with the visit of Bristol.

Doncaster travel to Headingley Carnegie for a Championship fixture on Sunday, October 2, a week after Leeds visit last season’s beaten play-off finalists Cornish Pirates.

Leeds yesterday confirmed the signing of Rotherham back-row Ryan Burrows on a two-year deal, and Pendlebury said: “Rotherham will always look to the Leeds fixtures and especially with it being their first home game of the season that just gives it added spice.

“There’s old boys like myself and now Ryan Burrows going back there and still a few of our old guys on the Rotherham team.

“Plus they’re a tough proposition on their own patch; not many teams win at Clifton Lane.

“And Doncaster turned us over three years ago, it was our first defeat of the season. Every player goes in hard for every game but there’s no denying you crank it up a notch for your local rivals.

“But in truth, whoever you got the opening few games of the season you know you’re in for an acid test.

“Every team is fresh, at full strength and determined to hit the ground running.”

The Rugby Football Union have changed the format of the play-off semi-finals by making it a two legged affair.

The 22-game regular season remains followed by a six-game post-season group stage, and although a two-legged semi-final would reduce the chances of a surprise defeat at that stage for promotion favourites Leeds, it does mean that any team reaching the promotion play-off final and the B&I Cup final will have to negotiate 38 matches.

Pendlebury said: “What it is is an extra game. We start in the first weekend of September and all being well we’ll be in the two-legged final on the last weekend of May.

“That’s a long season and we have to be ready for it.”

As last season, the top eight progress to the Championship promotion play-offs with three points carried over by the top seeds, two for the second seeds and so on.

Selected fixtures

Doncaster: Sep 3 v Bristol (h), Oct 2 v Leeds (a), Nov 19 v Rotherham (a), Dec 24 v Leeds (h), Feb 18 v Rotherham (h), Feb 25 v Bristol (a).

Leeds: Sep 4 v London Welsh (h), Sep 10 v Rotherham (a), Oct 2 v Doncaster (h), Nov 27 v Rotherham (h), Dec 24 v Doncaster (a), Feb 25 v London Welsh (a).

Rotherham: Sep 3 v London Scottish (a), Sep 10 v Leeds (h), Nov 19 v Doncaster (h), Nov 27 v Leeds (a), Dec 24 v Nottingham (h), Feb 18 v Doncaster (a), Feb 25 v London Scottish (h).