9:00am Saturday 10th May 2014
By David Pritchard
London Welsh have the quality to handle being favourites against Leeds Carnegie when their Greene King IPA Championship play-off semi-final begins tomorrow, according to assistant coach Ollie Smith.
The tie begins with the first leg at Headingley (1pm), before the return at the Kassam Stadium next Sunday.
The Exiles finished ahead of their opponents in the table, thanks in part to wins home and away against the Yorkshire club.
Smith acknowledged it put the odds in their favour to reach the final and backed the squad to deal with the pressure.
He said: “We probably are favourites, but as a group we are very focused on what we have to do to win the game.
“Good teams go in as favourites and don’t crumble.
“We won at Headingley, which was a good result because we were under pressure during the game.
“Then we did the double over them at the Kassam.
“Good teams have confidence, but don’t rest on their laurels.”
Welsh have had a fortnight to build up for the game after signing off the league campaign with a 64-12 win against Nottingham.
The time has been spent by first allow-ing players to recharge their batteries, before beginning the serious preparation business.
Smith has noticed the intensity rise over the last few days as players battle to get in the XV.
He said: “There’s always that desire because of the way the squad has worked.
“We have often made changes from week-to-week and it’s a hugely competitive group anyway.
“Some guys will miss out and some guys will have the opportunity.
“If you do well you will keep the spot, but if not the chances are you won’t be in the second leg.
“It’s not about revamping (the approach) at this stage, it’s just about looking at the team you are playing against.
“We won’t have wholesale changes, it’s about reaffirming things.”
The strategy is purely to win the first game.
But Smith admitted with a second leg to follow, the tactics could change late on.
He said: “I think you go in there as one game but as it evolves we have to be mindful there’s a second leg.
“We are going there to win this game and will think on our feet.
“If we go there and win it’s a great statement about our strength.”
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