Doncaster Knights v Nottingham: Ollie Stedman vows to be back for the big showdown

Taking the game to them: Doncaster Knights' Ollie Stedman in action against former club Yorkshire Carnegie in the Championship Cup at Castle Park earlier this month. Picture: John Ashton
Taking the game to them: Doncaster Knights' Ollie Stedman in action against former club Yorkshire Carnegie in the Championship Cup at Castle Park earlier this month. Picture: John Ashton
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RETURNING Doncaster Knights forward Ollie Stedman loves his rugby but not to the extent that he wants plastic surgery just yet.

The powerful back-row is enjoying life back at Castle Park after rejoining the club from Championship rivals Ealing Trailfinders last month.

However, his gathering momentum during a second spell with the South Yorkshire club has been slowed somewhat after he was sidelined for today’s crucial Championship Cup game with Nottingham due to a severe head wound.

Stedman, 27, had to leave the pitch early in last week’s Cup loss at Coventry following a gaping cut that has required substantial treatment since.

“I’ve been in the wars over the course of my career and I opened up two old scars which led to 15 stitches across my eye,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“That meant an hour-and-a-half in A&E last Saturday getting stitched up and I’ve got to be careful now. They’ve said if it breaks open again they won’t be able to restitch it back next time and it’ll need plastic surgery.

“I’d already had a cut there and when I scored, piling over the line, there was a few bumps and knocks, which meant that cut got added to again.

“It was a bit of a nightmare. It looks like I’ll be okay but I need to make sure I don’t cut it again and I’ve been told to not play this weekend.

“I should be absolutely fine for the league game against Yorkshire Carnegie, though.”

Crucially, that fixture in a fortnight’s time is Doncaster’s main focus as they seek to put distance between themselves and their bottom-placed rivals.

Still, they need to find some form themselves after a run of three successive defeats left their hopes of qualifying for the Championship Cup quarter-finals in the balance.

A bright start to the inaugural competition saw them win at Nottingham and defeat visiting Coventry but then back-to-back losses against Carnegie followed before last weekend’s reverse.

Granted, Doncaster remain in pole position to qualify as one of two best-placed third finishers, but – sitting just two points behind ahead of this final round – Nottingham are aware they could usurp them with a win this afternoon.

Stedman, who helped Knights to the Championship final in 2016 before rejoining Carnegie, conceded: “It is a bit of a difficult period at the moment.

“We’re not where we should be in the league or the cup; we’re either going to qualify or miss out on the quarter-finals on Saturday.

“I think as a group everyone has identified the need for a bit of a change in terms of our mentality and how we approach things – the silly mistakes we’re making – and everyone is on the same page.

“The coaches and players are ready to make those adjustments.

“The positive is it’s in our hands; we’ve got Nottingham at home and if we can give them a good kicking we’re through.

“But also it will give us some momentum for that derby that everyone is aware of just after Christmas. We could do with the win on Saturday to set us up nicely for Carnegie.”

Former England Under-20s international Stedman won promotion with London Welsh in 2014 and played in the Premiership with the Exiles.

He also has experience with Newcastle Knights but only left Carnegie for Championship rivals Ealing in January.

Stedman made just 10 appearances, though, having fallen out of favour this term.

“It was just one of those situations that happen,” he said, having rejoined Doncaster until the end of 2018-19.

“I signed for Alex Codling but he joined Harlequins in the summer. The new coach then got sacked (James Buckland after just one game) which can happen.

“Ealing are going well now and when you sign for one coach, the next one might not fancy you which is entirely his prerogative.

“That’s why he gets paid as a head coach. But I’m not one of those who can sit around and be a professional trainer so I made a decision to move elsewhere for the better of my playing career. And it’s good to be back at Donny.”

Knights have made plenty of changes today with Curtis Wilson and Paul Jarvis coming in on the wings in place of Dougie Flockhart and Stevie McColl plus Lloyd Hayes added in midfield as Elliott Creed drops to the bench.

Tom James is preferred to Fiji’s Henry Seniloli at No 9, veteran lock Matt Challinor is back in the starting XV with Morgan Eames switching to blindside flanker to take Stedman’s spot.