Welcome back to the Salford Stadium for another really exciting game against a team we know only too well. We’ve had some massive battles against Leicester Tigers since I’ve been here and I have no doubt that while the personnel on show might be a little different tonight, the intensity will be just the same.
This Leicester side will be a little different too, because they’ve now got Dan McKellar at the helm. Can I extend a warm, northern welcome to Dan and his team. The weather’s not quite as warm as it was last week but hopefully the welcome will be. We’re all in for another cracking night.
We have good memories of the last time we played Leicester but that game will have no bearing on tonight’s result. As I said, they’ve got Dan in charge now and we’ll see how that impacts the way they play.
We can only concentrate on ourselves and our team and how we build on a really exciting start last week. Bedford are a good side but I was so impressed – and maybe a little surprised – with how good we were. Attacking intent, ambition and bravery have been big themes right the way through pre-season and the lads showed plenty of all three, especially in the first half.
We won’t get carried away because we know we have to keep improving as we get towards the start of the Premiership. Our work at the breakdown needs to be sharper, we coughed up a couple of lineouts and we know, against a team like Leicester, that our kicking game needs to be even better.
We have a new player on show tonight and I have no doubt that you’ll give ‘Big Ernie’ a massive welcome. Ernst has earned the respect of the lads in the way he trains and the way he is around the club. Now it’s time to earn that respect on the pitch. He’s ready and I can’t wait to see him take the way he’s trained into a game.
To be honest, he’s bigger and better than I thought he was before he arrived. He’s classy in everything he does and his physicality is immense. When someone runs into him in training they just bounce off – he’s like a brick wall. I don’t want to compare him to anyone but there are definite elements of Jono and Cobus in the way he plays. Either way, we want to get him on the ball because he’s going to be really important to us this season when it comes to the gainline.
The same could be said of Sam Bedlow, who’s making his second debut for the club. Sam has looked so good in training this week and I can’t wait to see how he links up with Sam James. On the theme of attacking intent, he’s got plenty from his Bristol days so we’ve talked about how he can add that to our game. He’s a big, powerful lad but he’s also going to be great when it comes to supporting Nye and Tom as a second receiver. We’ve brought Sam’s brother Joe back from his loan at Doncaster for this one too, so you might get to see another set of brothers playing together!
Since our last game, England got their World Cup campaign underway and it’s fair to say it was a mixed game for our lads. I was gutted for Tom but I know he’ll come back after his suspension even better and more ready to make an impact. George Ford and Manu were fantastic and showed everyone just how good they are. Their performances weren’t surprising because we know what they can bring, but it was great to see them perform like that on the biggest stage.
On the subject of the World Cup, we’ve welcomed Jonny Hill and JL du Preez back this week. I have no doubt they’re gutted not to be involved, and we all think they should be sitting in a different dressing room this weekend. But their countries’ loss is our gain. They say patience is a virtue, but anger is a gift and I’m sure they’ll use their disappointment as motivation.
The lads are all chomping at the bit to get going and play some games and over the next three weeks they’re all going to get their chances to make sure they’re in prime shape when Northampton visit on October 13.
It’s up to the lads picked for tonight’s game to show that they deserve to keep that shirt.
Enjoy the game,