Bell ready for bat­tle with friendly foe Joe

The Rugby Paper - - Feature | Championship Play-off Final Preview - NICK VERDIER

HOT shots Tommy Bell and Joe Ford used to bat­tle it out in train­ing but there will be much more at stake over the next two weeks with the win­ner of the duel be­tween the league’s two best kick­ers likely to de­cide who will be pro­moted to the Premier­ship.

Bell ended the sea­son with 193 points as London Ir­ish se­cured top spot, with Ford on 192 and York­shire Carnegie in se­cond.

The pair, part of the same Carnegie team in 2012, played prom­i­nent roles in the semi-fi­nal wins over Don­caster and Eal­ing re­spec­tively, with Bell adding 19 points to his tally and Ford con­tribut­ing 32.

Ir­ish travel to Head­in­g­ley on Wed­nes­day for the first leg of the fi­nal and Bell is hop­ing the Ex­iles will work out a way to stop his old mate.

“We’ve had few kick­ing bat­tles with Joe be­fore,” he said. “He was at fly-half and I was at full-back when we played to­gether at Leeds and we of­ten chal­lenged each other in train­ing to de­cide who would kick at the weekend.

“He’s a great kicker and a great leader so I’m sure he’ll lead York­shire well around the pitch. Hope­fully we’ll have the tac­tics in place to com­bat that. “We know these two games are not like any other but we’re try­ing our best to keep things the same in our prepa­ra­tion. We’ve just got to stick at it and hope it’ll get us over the line. “We stuck to our struc­ture re­ally well against Don­caster, win­ning the kick­ing bat­tle and the for­wards did re­ally well up front to dis­rupt their maul. “Carnegie will prob­a­bly pose a bit more threat out wide so our for­wards will have to be even bet­ter to stop their mo­men­tum.

“We showed against Don­caster that if we can stop the op­po­si­tion in the first two phases and get the mo­men­tum back it’s then very tough for them. Our de­fence has been strong re­cently so we’ll go up there to take it to them.”

Strug­gling to im­pose him­self at Wasps and Le­ices­ter over the past four sea­sons, Bell, 24, de­cided to join Ir­ish and he hon­oured his con­tract de­spite rel­e­ga­tion from the Premier­ship.

He added: “I could have turned the move down be­cause of the rel­e­ga­tion but see­ing how good the en­vi­ron­ment was at Ir­ish it wasn’t much of a risk.

“Play­ing in the Cham­pi­onship might look like a step down but ev­ery­thing we do here, the stan­dards we set in train­ing is like at any Premier­ship club.

“I’ve re­ally en­joyed this sea­son. As the kicker I was given a lot of op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice dur­ing games as we scored a lot of tries.

“All our fo­cus is on the fi­nal but it’s hard not to have a cheeky look for­ward and think about the Premier­ship.

“That’s where I want to play and that’s where I re­ally want to kick on from a per­sonal point of view. I de­vel­oped just as much this year as I did at Wasps or Le­ices­ter sim­ply be­cause of the amount of game time I’ve had here.”

Friendly ri­valry: Tommy Bell

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