Leeds reinforced by homecoming king Clarke

Jon Clarke
Jon Clarke
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Former Heineken Cup winner Jon Clarke has come home to Yorkshire after joining Leeds Carnegie on a loan deal to the end of the season.

The 30-year-old Worcester back was born in Sheffield but raised in the south west.

He made his name playing for Northampton. Clarke represented the Saints in the Premiership more than 150 times, winning the Challenge Cup, the LV Cup and playing in the Heineken Cup final in his time at Franklin’s Gardens.

Clarke is not in the squad for today’s home game with Nottingham at Headingley Carnegie, but is available to play in the trip to Plymouth on January 4.

Together with the signing of Sevens star Rob Vickerman this month – who plays today – it is another sign of Leeds’ ambition to return to the Premiership.

Clarke said: “I am looking to show what I can do and earn a place in the squad and help the club’s drive to reach the play-offs and challenge for promotion.

“I wasn’t able to force my way in at Worcester so the opportunity arose to come to Leeds and I was more than happy to join the club.

“I came up and had a look around and everything is here for the club to be a success. As soon I met with James Lowes, Tommy McGee, Chris Gibson and Sir Ian McGeechan, I was impressed with the vision there is for the team over the next few years.

“I watched the recent win over Bristol on Sky and it was clear the style of rugby that Leeds Carnegie wanted to play and, as an outside back, that is an exciting prospect but it also shows the quality that is already here.

“Rob Vickerman has recently re-joined the club as well so there is plenty of competition for places but I think that is good for any squad and pushes everyone on.”

The increase in competition in the backs division has a knock-on effect for people like Oli Goss, who is a centre by trade but has played the majority of his rugby this year for Carnegie on the wing.

“It’s a backline that’s functioning very well, so you have to keep working hard to get your chance to be involved,” said Goss.

“Throw in Rob Vickerman, an England Sevens star who brings great experience, and now Jon Clarke, and the competition cranks up another couple of notches.

“It’s a level of competition I’ve never known before. And that’s a good thing because it’s pushing everybody on.”