A former product of the Leeds Carnegie academy, who will line up against them today, has questioned the wisdom of the club’s name change while applauding their ambition.
Rotherham Titans flanker Alex Rieder spent three years at Leeds Carnegie after being spotted by the club’s revered academy coaches playing for Giggleswick School at the age of 17.
He is one of hundreds of players who have been highlighted by the Headingley club’s vast network of county-wide scouts in their RFU-backed academy.
While he may not have made it at Leeds save for a handful of appearances, what he learned in the club’s academy system set him up for life as a professional and for the fourth time this season he lines up against his former employers today as a Rotherham Titan.
But even for someone who had been through that programme, Carnegie’s decision to change their name in the summer from Leeds to a more all-encompassing Yorkshire, did not sit right with the 23-year-old.
Although he thinks the promotion of the academy should be at the core of what the club does, he has questioned the merits of the name change.
In a very reasoned argument, Rieder said: “Leeds has always had a great academy that has produced some excellent players, and in the likes of Jack Walker and Paul Hill they’ve got another couple who are set to go all the way.
“The club has a good reach into Yorkshire schools and the ability to get the best out of the talent pool.
“But I don’t think you can brand yourselves as Yorkshire. They don’t represent the whole county, not when there’s other teams in it.
“Do they represent the whole of Yorkshire? No. We still see them as Leeds.
“But, at the end of the day, it’s only a name. If you get mixed up in it, it can become a bit petty.
“Ultimately, they did it for business and for financial support and I have no problem with that.
“As players when we’re on the pitch, all that matters is getting a result, not the name.
“For all the passion for the game in Yorkshire, as a county we haven’t quite made the impact at the top of rugby as we would have hoped.
“Carnegie are trying to build something and fair enough. It’s still early days in that process and too early to make a judgment.
“At Rotherham we’re trying to build ourselves.”
That building work could ultimately be conducted outside of Rotherham, given the problems over the lease at Clifton Lane which may result in the Titans leaving their home of nearly eight decades in the summer – and the town altogether.
Such a predicament means today’s meeting between Rotherham and Yorkshire could be the last at Clifton Lane.
Throw in the fact that both clubs are battling inconsistency while trying to keep their top-four hopes alive, and it is a fixture laced with sub-plots.
“Everyone looks forward to these derbies, especially ourselves after the last game, we feel we have a point to prove,” continued Rieder, whose Titans side won the first two meetings between the sides for the loss of just one penalty, before succumbing at the Lane in the British and Irish Cup in December.
“We let ourselves down badly last time. We were slow to react to loose ball and Leeds were very good at creating turnover ball.
“Their form has been erratic. (head coach) Tommy McGee has done a fantastic job since he came in, but you never know what Carnegie team you’re going to get.
“We know they’ll be physical. They’ve got a quality back three and last week they showed their attacking prowess against Nottingham.
“In recent weeks, we’ve gone away from being an attacking team. People look at us now and probably think of us a set-piece team but this weekend gives us an opportunity to show we are a team that can play attacking rugby, and maybe we can show some of the flashes of the Rotherham of last season.
“There are games this season where we just haven’t proved ourselves, but there have been times when we have shown we can play. People sometimes forget that.”