Optimism abounds at Headingley
August 31, 2010
Steve Thompson is back in the Premiership after a successful spell in France with Brive © Getty Images
Last season: 10th
Ins: The biggest figure to sign up is the re-energised England hooker Steve Thompson. He should add weight and firepower to a pack who rarely took a step backward last season. Sean Hohneck, the New Zealander who impressed for Bristol, should also be a good new face after a spell at Viadana in Italy. Bath's Daniel Browne and Wasps' Warren Fury are also useful back up players to have at No.8 and scrum-half. James Tincknell is unknown outside the Yorkshire Dales but the Wharfedale wing, who has joined Leeds on trial, has already gained one claim to fame by appearing as a 12th man for England at Lord's when on the MCC ground staff three years ago. He has now turned his hand to rugby and gained a professional chance after a glut of tries in the national leagues last season. He will do well to figure at first team level as Leeds have recruited Bath wing Michael Stephenson.
Outs: Leeds may have avoided relegation thanks to a glorious spring campaign but they still cannot prevent their best young talent leaving. Flanker Calum Clark and outside-half Joe Ford have joined Northampton after winning a string of English age-group representative honours. They join a long list of ex-Tykes in Danny Care, Jordan Crane, Tom Palmer and Tom Biggs to progress careers elsewhere. Leeds were also less than impressed when Seru Rabeni opted to join La Rochelle in France. The Fijian's career had been rescued last summer after injury prevented him joining Gloucester. Another popular figure heading for France is lock Erik Lund who joins brother Magnus in sunny Biarritz.
Coach: Neil Back may be the front man, but it is definitely a team effort at Headingley. The former England flanker arrived at Leeds alongside Andy Key after they had teamed up successfully to run the Welford Road academy. A shrewd move was to bring in Australian conditioning expert Steve Nance from Clermont Auvergne. Fitness certainly paid off in the final months of last season.
Prediction: They will do well to finish in the top half despite optimistic summer talk of a bigger playing budget and good recruits. First target is to stay ahead of Exeter and to win at Sandy Park on November 20.
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