RUGBY UNION: Burnell: Home fans can make a real difference

7:30am Saturday 25th January 2014

By Ed Mezzetti

London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell says there is no better time to start supporting his team.

Greene King IPA Championship leaders Welsh host third-placed Leeds in a crucial clash at the Kassam Stadium tomorrow (2.30).

And having been buoyed by the atmosphere at their last home game against Pontypridd in the British & Irish Cup, Burnell is relishing the Yorkshire club’s visit.

“I thought it was great when Pontypridd came here with all their singing,” he said.

“That really brought the best out of our fans. It was great to see how much difference the crowd can have.

“The London Welsh support base are fantastic.

“If we can get more numbers in there and more people from the Oxford area see what’s going on, that can only help it.

“If you have not been to see us before, this would be a fantastic time to come along with such a big game.”

Burnell believes Welsh are entering a key part of their campaign, with second-placed Rotherham their next home opponents to follow Leeds on February 9.

“It’s getting closer to the party end of the season,” he said.

“When you look at those two sides and Bristol, they are right in the mix along with Cornish Pirates and London Scottish.

“They are the sides in contention for the top-four.”

Welsh have enjoyed three narrow victories in 2014 and will definitely need to raise their game against promotion rivals Leeds, whom they pipped 31-24 in November, Nick Scott scoring two tries.

“Leeds are playing with a lot of width and very much in a rugby league style, which is no surprise with James Lowes (ex-Leeds Rhinos) in charge,” said Burnell.

“They are a good all-round team and they are most competitive in is the breakdown.

“They play with three openside flankers. That is something we need to be aware of.”

But Burnell believes such is the strength of the Championship that Welsh face battles all the way if they are to make the play-offs.

“By this part of the season we need to be at our best,” he said. “I don’t think we can take anybody lightly.

“We have been very good at being respectful to the league and the other teams.”

Meanwhile, due to expected heavy rain in the area, pitch inspections will be carried out tomorrow morning at the Kassam Stadium.

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