Yorkshire Carnegie hope Stirling's efforts will lead to return to top flight

GARY HETHERINGTON says former New Zealand RU high performance manager Chris Stirling will help detail the best plan for getting Yorkshire Carnegie back into the Premiership.

Chris Elder will return for Yorkshire Carnegie following suspension.
Chris Elder will return for Yorkshire Carnegie following suspension.

Fifth-placed Carnegie head to runaway Championship leaders Bristol tonight knowing any hopes of promotion have already long gone for a seventh successive season.

The Headingley outfit essentially wrote off this term, substantially reducing their playing budget knowing the amount of cash relegated Bristol would plough in to win an immediate return to the top flight.

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However, Carnegie claim they still hold ambitions to return eventually and the appointment of Stirling, the general manager of high performance at Wellington-based Super Rugby side Hurricanes, in a new role will help them do that.

Hetherington said: “Chris has just arrived in the UK and he arrives initially in a consultancy role. His recruitment is testament to the ambition of the club wanting to get back into the Premiership.

“His remit is to lead the club back into the Premiership and oversee all aspects of the rugby operation. He brings a wealth of top-class experience having led at the Hurricanes while he did a terrific job in the Championship at Cornish Pirates.

“He’ll bring plenty to the coaching staff and he’ll have a look at the whole operation before detailing in a report to the shareholders and directors what he thinks is needed to get Yorkshire Carnegie into top-flight rugby.

“All clubs are in the same position at the moment, waiting to see what will happen with funding in the Championship, and when that becomes clearer we will know how things will take shape looking ahead.”

Bristol have won 17 of their 18 league games so far.

But Hetherington added: “Quite a few clubs have run them close and I think that’s the challenge for all teams in the Championship.

“Jimmy Lowes will take his side there on Friday full of confidence ready to challenge Bristol.

“They’re looking forward to the chance to do that.”

Carnegie will be fresh as Sunday’s game against second-placed Ealing Trailfinders was postponed due to bad weather.

Full-back Chris Elder returns from suspension while Callum Irvine comes back into the squad at fly-half and Pete Lucock goes back into the centres.

In the forwards, Welsh international Craig Mitchell starts his first game for the club since joining on loan while Academy player Tom Bullough is on the bench for only his fourth appearance of the season.

However, Lowes is without Mike Myerscough (shoulder) and Trystan Roberts (thumb) while fly-half Alex Davies is out for the season with a knee injury and Tom Casson and Fred Burdon both miss out with neck injuries.