Underdog tag has brought us closer – Blackett

CENTRE Lee Blackett believes his Leeds Carnegie team-mates will be looking to prove a point when they take on Worcester tomorrow, in a game which could secure their Guinness Premiership status.

Written off as relegation fodder even before a ball was kicked this season, Carnegie have defied the odds – and a significant financial disadvantage – to leave their future in their own hands, knowing that a win at Headingley tomorrow will keep them up, and trigger an estimated 1m windfall.

"We have a good, tight squad here with some excellent players, but we knew that it'd be tough at the start of the season," said Blackett, who began his career at Rotherham Titans.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"We were written off by a lot of people around Christmas time, and it led to us adopting an underdog mentality – we're desperate to prove these people wrong.

"A lot of the media, and even people very close to the players wrote us off, and you don't forget things like that easily. We'll be looking to prove a point against Worcester."

Indeed, Blackett did so last weekend – setting up Jon Goodridge for the winning try in a 23-13 victory against London Irish, the side who inflicted Leeds's worst Premiership defeat of the season, 56-7, back in September.

However, if Leeds don't beat bottom club Worcester, they will face an anxious two-week wait before travelling to Bath for the final game of the season – leading to a few sleepless nights in the Blackett household.

"This is the biggest game we've had, since I've been here," said 27-year-old Blackett, who joined Leeds in 2006.

"We have a really good opportunity, following a brilliant result last week.

"There's a lot of confidence in the camp, and it's been such a hard season that all the lads just want to put a massive performance in.

"If we don't get a result, it'll be a horrible wait for the game against Bath.

"But the Worcester game's been talked about for such a long time now, and we really just want to get on with it and play in it," he said.

"But we all want to play in these pressure scenarios.

"As our performances have increased, so has the size of the crowd and the crowd volume – it should be a good occasion."

On a personal level, Blackett is hoping to avoid a personal hat-trick of relegations with Leeds, having suffered the agony of relegation in 2006 and 2008.

"I've been here quite a while now, and we've seemed to yo-yo between the divisions," said Blackett, who was also relegated from the Premiership with Rotherham.

"So it'll be nice for us to actually have a bit of consistency. As players, we're not looking beyond the weekend – we're not thinking of challenging for the top six, or anything like that.

"But we are aware of the financial consequences of this game, and that it could be worth an extra million pounds to the club, so it is a vital game for all concerned.

"As players, we want to play in the Premiership week-in, week-out, and of course being higher up the table means you can negotiate your contract earlier because the clubs know what league they're going to be in the following season.

"Hopefully, we can retain our top-flight status, and the club can use the money to get five or six world-class players in."

Blackett admitted that Leeds securing their Premiership status would be 'huge' for the city as a whole, saying: "Leeds have an outstanding rugby league team (Leeds Rhinos), but for the first time recently I've heard people start to talk about Carnegie.

"Hopefully, we can give them something to talk about tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Andy Key believes that his Leeds side will benefit from having players, like Blackett, in his side who have experienced relegation before.

"We've got a nice balance," said director of rugby Key, who will replace the injured Calum Clark with Kearnan Myall.

"For example, we've got Marco (Wentzel, captain) who never had this kind of experience at Leicester, but there are also a lot of players who have," he explained.

"So the team will be looking to draw on all of those experiences."

Key also believes that South African Wentzel's decision to commit his future to Leeds shows the ambition of the club.

"Marco's an outstanding leader and an outstanding player, he's highly influential," he said.

"And this just demonstrates that Marco sees a good future here, at a club that is going forward.

"We've been very clear in our objectives, and it's important that we stick by them – everything we do behind the scenes is focused on the goal of a top-six place.

"The infrastructure of this place can take us to that top-six place."

England Under-20 captain Jacob Rowan has agreed a new, two-year contract at Headingley. Rowan, described as one of the brightest young talents in the country, said: "I am really pleased to have signed for the club.

"Hopefully the boys can get the right result against Worcester, and we can look forward to a bright future."

Leeds team to play Worcester: Macdonald, Titterrell, Gomez, Lund, Wentzel (C), Myall, Fourie, To'oala, Mathie, Thomas, Blackett, Rabeni, Burrell, Fa'afili, Goodridge. Substitutes: Nilsen, Hardy, Swainston, Denton, Oakley, Gomarsall, Ford, Paul.

Guinness Premiership

P W D L F A B Pts

Leicester 20 14 1 5 478 271 10 68

Northampton 20 15 0 5 414 287 6 66

Saracens 20 13 1 6 420 317 7 61

Wasps 20 12 0 8 350 343 5 53

London Irish 20 10 3 7 442 319 6 52

Bath 20 10 2 8 376 344 7 51

Harlequins 20 8 2 10 363 424 5 41

Gloucester 20 8 1 11 413 415 6 40

Newcastle 21 6 4 11 298 406 4 36

Sale 21 6 1 14 313 460 6 32

Leeds 20 6 1 13 268 444 6 32

Worcester 20 3 4 13 280 385 6 26