CARETAKER head coach Tommy McGee has labelled today’s game at London Scottish as crucial in the “evolution” of his Yorkshire Carnegie side.
They still harbour hopes of breaking into the Championship play-off places despite currently residing in eighth spot.
Carnegie have certainly made clear progress since McGee took over from Gary Mercer at the end of November and they gave then leaders Worcester Warriors a hard-fought game over Christmas.
However, they remain 13 points adrift of Scottish in the final play-off spot of fourth meaning this afternoon’s contest has added importance especially considering they quickly follow up with a trip to new leaders Bristol a week tomorrow.
“I think it is a big weekend for us in our evolution and maturing as a whole group,” said McGee, with Carnegie eventually falling 36-17 after such early promise versus Worcester.
“The Worcester game showed that we can compete – it was 17-17 after 73 minutes – and we learned a lot from that match.
“Generically this week, we’ve looked at managing the field a bit better and understanding that when you are playing good sides they can put the squeeze on you for certain amount of periods.
“What you have got to do in your game is be adaptable.
“We are a side that loves to play and have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for playing with the ball and we are evolving our game. We created a lot against Worcester, but I still think we have got a lot to learn about patches in games and how cycles go and how you get them back. That needs improving still.”
That loss was a first defeat in six games since McGee took charge, though, and they hope to quickly bounce back against a Scottish side who have endured consecutive defeats to Worcester and Nottingham.
Significantly, they have also lost four games running in all competitions although there will be less chance of free-flowing football this afternoon.
“I think it’s forecast for torrential rain and the weather could play a big part in the game,” added McGee.
“I don’t think it will be a big scoreline. We have looked at the two league games in January and know this a massive period.
“Picking up something this weekend, preferably a win, is really important as going to Bristol next is very difficult too so we do need the points.”
Meanwhile, hooker Jack Walker becomes the club’s youngest captain when, at just 18, he fills in for Ryan Burrows who starts a three-game ban.
Honoured by that, he is also thriving on playing alongside his brother, the 22 year-old flanker Chris.
“It is cool,” said Walker, whose mother Suzanne represented Zimbabwe as a swimmer and late father Johnny was a winger for Otley, Hunslet, Batley and Keighley Cougars.
“It’s something I always wanted to do and to now be doing that is a massive pleasure.
“It’s going great at the moment. It’s awesome to be playing so much.
“I’m enjoying the rugby and obviously the opportunities I’m getting.”