Yorkshire Carnegie director of rugby Chris Stirling says today’s game at Ealing Trailfinders hinges on how his players react to what has been a week of adversity.
An RFU citing for flanker Dan Temm and an injury to forward Matt Smith have disrupted Carnegie’s plans ahead of the long trip south to face the big-spending Trailfinders.
“There’s two outcomes you can have from the adversity this week,” said Striling, who has overseen one victory and one defeat in his first two Championship games in charge.
“You can let it affect you, or you can use it as a tool to galvanise and strengthen your performance.”
Smith, who has also been working in a coaching capacity with National One side Rotherham Titans, withdrew from contention with a late injury yesterday morning.
Temm has at least been cleared to start against his former club after an RFU hearing on the allegation that he struck an opposition player in Carnegie’s win over Richmond last Sunday.
The aforementioned adversity has forced Stirling to make three changes to the starting line-up, with Irish under-20 international Dylan Donnellan, who has joined the club on trial, starting as hooker.
The young front-rower was recommended to the club by former Carnegie and England head coach Stuart Lancaster, who now works with Donnellan’s home club, Leinster.
Having travelled to an Under-20s World Cup with Ireland and also played rugby abroad in France for Biarritz, Donnellan brings experience.
“They’re a good group of lads and I’m really looking forward to getting on the pitch and getting stuck in,” said Donnellan.
Oli Fox replaces JB Bruzulier at scrum-half and Elliott Ward has been called up to fill in for Smith, who withdrew last minute through injury.
Elsewhere in the squad, Jake Ilnicki is included on the bench. The Canadian said: “It will be a tough test but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Meanwhile, Ealing have made four changes to their starting line-up.
There are two changes up front and two in the backs as director of rugby Ben Ward looks to secure a second win in a row after the victory over London Scottish last Saturday.
Jake Ellwood makes his debut for the Trailfinders at loosehead, with hooker Alun Walker and tighthead Elliot Millar Mills facing his old club in the front-row.
The physical pairing of Ben Landry and Ben West continue in the second-row with an unchanged back-row of Jordy Reid, Andrew Durutalo and captain Rayn Smid.
Scrum-half Luke Carter has a new half-back partner with Craig Willis starting at fly-half for the first time this season. Pat Howard keeps his place at inside centre and is joined by Lewis Jones in the midfield, whilst an unchanged back-three of James Cordy Redden, Howard Packman and Peter Lydon will look to capitalise on any opportunities that come their way.
Jack O’Connell, Matt Cornish and George Davis offer a front-row alternative on the bench, with Rohan O’Regan and Ollie Stedman covering the rest of the pack.
Jordan Burns provides scrum-half back-up with Laurence May completing the match day squad.
Centre Pat Howard is looking forward to another big challenge this weekend:
He said: “They have historically always been a good side and you can never write them off. They have some very good players but we’ve been working hard and want to replicate our first half performances to give us a good chance.”