YORKSHIRE CARNEGIE director of rugby Chris Stirling believes his side can upset the odds and reach the inaugural Championship Cup final tomorrow.
They certainly have the toughest task – a semi-final at league leaders London Irish, who have lost just twice all season and remain favourites for an immediate promotion back to the Premiership.
Furthermore, Carnegie were embarrassed 72-5 on their last visit to Madejski Stadium in October and remain just eight points adrift of the relegation spot after a 28-10 home defeat to Jersey Reds on Sunday.
However, that disappointing Jersey loss was only a second defeat in 11 games for Stirling’s side.
“If an outsider looked at the scoreline from the first game at Irish they’d think it was a game of cricket and Yorkshire Carnegie were going into bat next,” he said, with Ealing Trailfinders hosting Cornish Pirates in the other semi-final.
“But it’s a totally different team now; we’ve strengthened in areas we needed to to be competitive against teams like London Irish.
We’ll give it everything we’ve got down there and have a good crack at them.Chris Stirling
“We’ll give it everything we’ve got down there and have a good crack at them.
“The boys have played well in the last two to three months, especially in the Cup.
“We deserve to be in these semi-finals and, if we are to win it, it means we have to beat the best.
“We know we have a chance of doing that and we go there with confidence.
“If it’s enough to get to the final, then great.
“But we can’t make the same type of errors as we did on Sunday. We realise that.”
He does not envisage star-studded Irish being caught in their pursuit of promotion.
“I don’t think they will (falter),” said the New Zealander.
“Ealing are chasing hard and they are a good team and Irish have to come to us yet which won’t be easy; teams are finding that particularly hard.
“It is going to be interesting and you never know what can happen but I still expect Irish to go up.”
He has made five changes for the trip to Madejski Stadium.
Wasps have recalled Jacob Umaga – “he won’t be available for us in the near future” – so Myles Thoroughgood comes in.
Up front, Marc Thomas returns after missing last week with a calf injury.
He replaces Nic Mayhew while Dylan Donnellan and Sam Nixon both come into the starting line-up after making appearances from the bench against Jersey.
They replace Joe Buckle, who is a replacement, and Andy Forster, who has picked up a knee injury. Cian Romaine returns from a knee injury and Craig Mitchell (HIA protocol) but Fa’atiga Lemalu is unavailable due to a dislocated finger and centre Andy Forsyth has picked up a calf injury.