Doncaster Knights: Francis Cummins on his move to Castle Park, task in-hand and facing former club Yorkshire Carnegie

Francis Cummins
Francis Cummins

Francis Cummins will no doubt recall some of the many highlights during his glittering career with rugby league giants Leeds Rhinos when he returns to Headingley tomorrow night.

Cummins, who took over as Doncaster Knights' backs and skills coach during the summer, spent a combined 17 years at the Super League club as a player and assistant coach.

He was also involved with Yorkshire Carnegie Rugby Union Club for 18 months prior to leaving by 'mutual consent' in February,

“Those sort of things happen and you’ve just got to move on,” said 40 year-old Cummins.

“I didn’t fall out with anybody and I certainly don’t think I’ve got anything to prove tomorrow night.”

Despite things not quite working out for him in the 15-a-side code, Cummins had no hesitation in agreeing to link up with Knights after being contacted by director of rugby Clive Griffiths - in the market for a new backs and skills coach following Paul Cooke’s return to rugby league.

“Clive’s call came out of the blue but it's proved to be a good move for me,” said Cummins.

“I’m enjoying it. It’s an ambitious club with a good coaching staff and a good set of lads.

“I didn’t know a great deal about the club before I came here - though as I was at Carnegie when we beat them at home in the league last season - and I’d watched their play-off final games against Bristol on television.

“They won the second leg but they had just left themselves too much to do after the first leg which was a shame because I remember thinking Doncaster played a far more entertaining game and liking the way they played.

“I also knew that several players had left.

“It did help following Paul (who also came from a rugby league background) but, as I said to the Carnegie players when I started there, I told the squad that I wasn’t looking to turn them into rugby league players.

“I’m the sort of coach who looks to focus on the more finer details and I don’t try to over complicate things so it didn’t really matter who I took over from in that sense because I have my own way of doing things.

“The basics of (running, passing and tackling) are the same in both games but there are certain things you can do in rugby league and not get isolated which you can’t do in union.

“There are no new plays in either code - though you can dress things up differently - and that is why certain moves, such as the run-around, which had drifted away, are starting to come back.

“What we’ve focused on this season is to try and give ourselves different attacking options.

“The good thing about Doncaster under Clive is that they do try and play a good brand of rugby and entertain the crowd and not every side plays like that.

“We like to play an attacking game but in some circumstances you have to play a different way to win a game.

“My focus as a coach is making sure that I don’t coach the rugby out of a player because some players have got great skills and awareness and you can structure the tactics too much and in doing so sanitize their game.

“Equally, some players need more of that so you’ve really got to know the players you are working with.

“After looking at footage from last season we've made changes to (fly-half) Declan Cusack's game as we have done with others.

“We’ve got some exciting backs and (wing) Tyson Lewis has made a hell of a lot of line breaks this year.

“Players like Tyson have got to be in the game – it’s no use them being stood out there on the wing and not getting any ball – so we encourage them to look for work.”

In keeping with Griffiths and forwards coach Glen Kenworthy, Cummins is puzzled by the way the side are starting games but says no stone is being left unturned in a bid to resolve the problem. Likewise, the club’s patchy away form this season.

He admits Knights will have to play better at Headingley - where Carnegie are unbeaten this season - than they have done in previous away games this season if they are to come away with the spoils.

“They've got some strong-running forwards and a good driving lineout,” he said. “They throw the ball about and they've got some dangerous backs.

“We'll certainly need to put pressure on them for 80 minutes and also capitalize on our chances.

“But if we can do that then we can beat them. I certainly think we've got the players to go there and win and that would give us a great boost.”

n £1 tickets for Knights v Cornish Pirates on Sunday, November 27 - full story at www.doncasterfreepress.co.uk.