Return of England heroes gives Leeds a lift for Exiles test

NEIL BACK hopes the optimism brought by returning England duo Hendre Fourie and Steve Thompson can inspire his struggling Leeds Carnegie side to a crucial victory over London Irish tomorrow.

The Yorkshire club were left demoralised by last week’s relegation battle loss to Newcastle Falcons, a defeat which left them seven points adrift of safety in the Aviva Premiership.

Newcastle’s 33-18 win over Harlequins last night stretched the gap to 11 points and Leeds are urgently in need of a boost.

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International openside Fourie and hooker Thompson could do that as they return to the starting line-up, having missed Newcastle due to their involvement against France.

Back admits the experienced pair have already played their part in restoring some confidence.

“We were pleased to have them back this week for the full week from the England camp,” he said.

“It was great to see both guys at Headingley Carnegie last Sunday supporting their team-mates despite the euphoria of beating France the previous day at Twickenham.

“They have come back in with an upbeat attitude after their experiences with the national team and that has certainly given us a lift in training.

“We are still without a number of key players through injury which is unfortunate at this stage. However, we have confidence in the 23 players who will take to the field on Sunday to get the job done.”

Back has made 10 changes, four positional, including dropping full-back Ceiron Thomas and USA prop Mike MacDonald to the bench and pitching together a new half-back pairing of Adrian Jarvis and Scott Mathie.

Gareth Hardy gets a chance at loosehead prop while Daniel Browne reverts to second-row to accommodate Fourie’s return.

Back added: “Irish are a side who have also suffered from indifferent form until recently but they will come here on a high, having beaten Quins last week.

“They have a very talented squad and were unlucky last season to miss out on a place in the play-offs. We know we face another tough challenge. The players were bitterly disappointed with the Newcastle performance and felt they had let themselves and their team-mates down.

“Newcastle took their chances; we have to learn those lessons.”

Irish have made one change from the side that beat Harlequins, Jonathan Joseph coming in to replace Adam Thompstone.

Otley will bid to improve their chances of avoiding relegation from National League One when they host Tynedale today.

The Cross Greeners pulled off an unlikely success at Macclesfield a week ago to give them hope.

Wharfedale are boosted by the return of experienced Chris Malherbe and Andy Hodgson as they entertain Coventry.