ROTHERHAM TITANS’ captain Will Owen says some players “don’t know how to deal” with Justin Burnell’s sacking, but must accept some responsibility.
They host Nottingham Rugby today in their final home game of a wretched season, Burnell having paid the price for their continued poor form on Tuesday.
Former Leeds Carnegie director of rugby Andy Key has been put in place for next term and he met the players for the first time on Thursday.
However, he still has commitments with Leicester Lions so Rotherham forwards coach Steve Salvin and backs coach Jon Clarke will be in charge this afternoon.
Owen told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s been hard for a lot of people who haven’t experienced this before, mentally more than anything.
“They don’t know how to deal with it. But we just want to get on with things and finish the season well.
“It shouldn’t take a sacking for players to raise their game; they must take some responsibility for what has happened.
“Justin, as coach, took the bullet, as happens in pro’ sport, but this might have given the players the realisation they need a kick up the backside, too. I really enjoyed working with him.”
On 58-year-old Key, who has had such a long affinity with Leicester Tigers, Owen added: “He came up Thursday and had a team meeting with the players, meeting a few individually, too.
“He kept it quite brief, but he told us what his expectations are and a little bit about himself.
“It’s good to have someone of another high calibre. Only time will tell if the formula works.”
With Rotherham struggling at the wrong end of the table for a second successive season, asked if he likes a “challenge”, Key admitted: “That plays into my strengths. From my academy days at Leicester and clubs where we’ve taken them from somewhere where they’re not too far off to where it needs to be.
“These are exciting times; it sounds wrong almost when we’re near the bottom ,but we need to embrace this and look at it positively about how we turn it around.”
Doncaster Knights head to Cornish Pirates tomorrow knowing if they back up Sunday’s win over Yorkshire Carnegie their top-four place is likely to be confirmed.