Team: Leeds Carnegie
Coach: Neil Back
Home ground: Headingley Carnegie
Miguel Alonso (Viadana) Daniel Browne (number eight, Bath), Warren Fury (scrum-half, Wasps), Sean Hohneck (lock, Viadana), Michael Stephenson (wing, Bath), Semi Tadulala (wing, Gloucester), Steve Thompson (hooker, Brive), James Tincknell (winger, Wharfedale), Christian Lewis-Pratt (Northampton), Jesus Moreno Rodriguez (Spain), Lachlan Mackay (Brive)
Scott Armstrong (wing, Northampton), Joe Bedford (scrum-half, Rotherham), Peter Bucknall (prop, Leicester), Calum Clark (flanker, Northampton), Joe Ford (fly-half, Northampton), Andy Gomarsall (scrum-half, released), Jon Goodridge (full-back, released), Jonny Hepworth (winger, Rotherham), Erik Lund (lock, Biarritz), Tommy McGee (prop, Wharfedale), Vili Ma’asi (hooker, London Welsh), Alex Moreno (prop, retired), Phil Murphy (number eight, released), Henry Paul (centre, Rotherham), Seru Rabeni (centre, La Rochelle), Rob Rawlinson (hooker, retired), Jason Strange (fly-half, released), George Warner (hooker, Moseley), Richard Welding (wing, Rotherham), Adam Greendale (released)
Physical fitness and mental determination kept Leeds up last year, and Leeds have made some astute signings to help their survival and progression in the Premiership this season. Steve Thompson, Sean Hohneck, Daniel Brown and Michael Stephenson are all Premiership quality and should slot straight into the first team at Leeds to complement the talent of Ceiron Thomas at fly-half and Hendre Fourie in the back-row.
Neil Back has been assisted by the money men behind Leeds allowing the club to freeze their loan repayments for a season and increase the player quantity and quality. It’s a long term view that should pay off if the team continues to improve on the pitch.
Leeds are lacking real firepower outside Thomas, suggesting they’ll continue to grind out victories rather than dismantle opposition sides with pace and precision. They’ve a strong pack that should see them survive again, but I can’t see them opening up in the way that teams above them are able to.
One to watch:
Wing Michael Stephenson has been signed from Bath to boost that firepower in the backs, so it will be interesting to see how much ball he gets. He wasn’t getting a lot of gametime at Bath, but there’s a chance he could flourish in this side.
We think they’ll do enough to avoid a relegation battle going into the last couple of rounds, but can’t yet see them mid-table – 10th.