Over the next few weeks as anticipation builds towards the start of the Guinness Premiership, we’ll be previewing each of the 12 teams. Here, Jon Hobbs evaluates the chances of newly promoted Leeds Carnegie.
Marco Wentzel (Leicester)
Alfie To’aola (Bristol)
Juan Gomez (Leinster)
Henry Fa’afili (Biarritz)
Gareth Hardy (Western Force)
Ceiron Thomas (Scarlets)
Andy Gomarsall (Harlequins)
Tom Biggs (Newcastle)
Rob Vickerman (Newcastle)
Alberto di Bernardo (Bourgoin)
James Brooks (Doncaster)
Adam Hopcroft (released)
Jon Dunbar (released)
Andy Boyde (released)
A lot is written about developing a “winning mentality” and the good it can do for a team’s state of mind. Winning National Division One at a canter certainly helped Northampton last season with their home dominance against the best of the Premiership. In a summer of turmoil, Leeds begin their campaign for Premiership survival with a settled, balanced squad and coaching team that is familiar with winning and they have made some solid, if not spectacular signings.
However, the Premiership will be as competitive as ever this season and whilst team work and a positive mentality can get you so far, there’s no substitute for quality which is where Leeds seem to be slightly lacking.
Tom Biggs and Rob Vickerman are two men you would have singled out as having the capacity of mixing it with the big boys, but they’ve both departed to Newcastle. Marco Wentzel was solid enough for Leicester but isn’t going to carry a team.
The recent addition of Andy Gomarsall though, for what one must assume is his last hurrah, might make the difference that keeps Leeds up. He consistently controlled games at the top level for Harlequins and despite his age his fitness cannot be questioned. A very shrewd signing by Neil Back.
Indeed, Back’s leadership will mean that Leeds will surprise a few teams, particularly at home. The other Premiership sides will be visiting unfamiliar surroundings at Headingley Carnegie, and if the newcomers can get one or two wins under their belt, confidence will rise and they’ll pose a challenge for any team.
Their first two fixtures will be critical, at home to Newcastle and then away at Worcester – arguably two of their rivals in the relegation fight this season. These games could set the tone for Leeds, and I think they’ll stay up.
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