Mercer finally gets his chance at Headingley

Leeds Rhinos player Gary Mercer is now the head coach of Yorkshire Carnegie.
Leeds Rhinos player Gary Mercer is now the head coach of Yorkshire Carnegie.
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Gary Mercer says the role of head coach of Yorkshire Carnegie is one he has coveted for a number of years.

The 48-year-old former New Zealand rugby league international – who had two spells with Leeds in the 13-man game – has signed a two-year deal as the first head coach of Yorkshire Carnegie.

He succeeds James Lowes, a man whose opinion he sought before taking the job, and whose attacking brand of rugby he hopes to continue.

“It’s always been a position I’d have loved to have taken on,” said Mercer, who has thrown his hat into the ring for this job every time it has come up since he moved into union coaching in Scotland in 2005.

“When you look at Leeds as a club alongside the Rhinos, it’s a well connected club.

“It’s a new venture and a new start for the club. It’s also a new start for me.

“And one of the big attractions for me is working with Sir Ian McGeechan.”

McGeechan’s vision of a county club providing players for all age groups is one that Mercer buys into, having worked in similar structures as an age-group coach for Scotland.

Mercer will not take charge until September 1, just six days before Carnegie kick-off the Championship season away at Cornish Pirates.

“I know it’s quite a rush with the boys having a game on the 7th, so it’s about me bedding msyelf in and not doing too much too soon,” said Mercer.

“I have to understand the work that’s gone on in the pre-season. It’s important I come in and ensure good decisions are made but also that the coaching group that are in place can carry on with their business. I’ll tweak things as we go forward.”

Asked if he will be hindered because of having had no pre-season with the club, Mercer added: “I don’t think so. What I saw from the club last year is how I want them to play.

“I watched a lot of Carnegie last year, they mirrored James Lowes and he’s a similar coach to myself; very hard-working, easy-going and get’s straight to the point. My job as head coach is to make players and teams better.”

Mercer is targeting a top-four finish and a place in the promotion play-offs, where Carnegie’s season has ended in each of the last two seasons.