- Young talent crucial to team's future says Diccon
- Former Premiership sides clash in Round 13
Photo: RFU Archive
Following a difficult start to their debut season in the RFU Championship, Diccon Edwards’ Leeds Carneige have found their stride of late and as the former England U20 Assistant Coach says, promotion back to the top tier of English rugby is the target.
Q: Leeds had a relatively shaky start to the season, but seem to have found some form of late. How much of that is down to the young age of your squad and allowing them the time to find their rhythm?
I think you can put a lot down to that. We inherited a lot of quality young players that I had real confidence in when I took over as head coach and I knew that as we gained experience and progressed through the season, we’d make significant improvements quickly. I’d hoped we’d start a little bit better than we did, but what we have done is show real belief in what we’re trying to do, with a very positive attitude to work hard and overcome our shortcomings.
Q: As the former England U20 Assistant Manager, you must have a particular appreciation for the young talent in this country. How important is it for players to get first team action in the early stages of their career?
I think it’s incredibly important. What we’ve seen this season really highlights that for me and it’s deepened my views on that. Too many players, even with my time in the England U20s, weren’t getting consistent game time so the work that they do in training, to up skill themselves, is fantastic, but they need to then be able to put that into game situations. What we’ve seen at Leeds this season is a young group of players who’ve had the opportunity to play, who’ve had to learn some lessons quickly but who have benefited hugely as a result. I think it’s something that needs to be looked at very closely; that players of that quality are playing consistently at a challenging level.
Q: Leeds have played in this division before, but have you noticed a change in the quality of rugby since the club were in the league in 2009?
Obviously it’s a much more hands on role this season as head coach, but certainly the evidence suggests that there has been a significant development in the quality of the competition, as we expected there to be. The majority of the sides are now full time and also the quality of the players, in terms of their experience with involvement in age groups and Premiership clubs, has progressed. Whereas before, there would be a couple of game which you’d go into thinking 'we’ll probably win', now we go into every game knowing that it’s going to be a huge challenge because of the quality of the opposition. The improvement across in the board, from players to coaching is significant
We were very aware of where we were as a team, and the way we would have to progress but also the way we would be viewed by everyone we played against. Ultimately we were the team that got relegated from the Premiership last season and while the current squad doesn’t necessarily reflect that in terms of that experience, we do know that everyone will raise their game against us. That’s created its own intensity, which is great, and that experience will hold us in good stead going into the play-offs.
We saw in the first year of the RFU Championship that Bristol went all out for promotion, only to fall at the final hurdle. Is that approach something your wary off in your bid to return to the Premiership?
Our aim by the end of the season is to be promoted, and that’s something we’re striving to achieve. We needed to create a culture that has the academy at its foundations, and provide those players with opportunity to up-skill themselves but then also play. That will put us in a good place in the future both on and off the field, with a group of players who are committed to the long term. But we do know that we’ll need a team capable of winning the play-off final, should we get there.
Q: Leeds have a huge test this weekend, taking on Bristol at The Memorial where they are currently unbeaten in the league. Is there a physiological advantage in the 1-point win that Leeds secured back in September going into this game?
I think we’ll view the Bristol game as we do every other game; a one off game that we have to be fully prepared for. They’ve got some outstanding threats across their team and fantastic support. It will be a great experience for us and one we’re excited about. They are the environments we need to play in to give us those experiences before the play-offs. We go down there very confident because we know we’ve been producing good performances and good results, but equally, we’re fully aware of how difficult it’s going to be but it’ll only be of benefit to us in the long run.