Big names in Knights exodus

Full back David McIlwaine is leaving the Knights for Bristol
Full back David McIlwaine is leaving the Knights for Bristol

THE Knights face a major rebuilding job this summer after confirmation that several key men will depart including David McIlwaine and Fred Burdon.

But director of rugby Brett Davey insists he will not be downhearted about the departures and already has a number of new arrivals lined up.

Davey confirmed reports that McIlwaine (pictured below) and Burdon would be leaving Castle Park along with Oli Goss and Jack Yeandle.

But he refused to be drawn on the identity of replacements who have committed to the Knights for next season.

He said: “I’m disappointed that names of those leaving have come out because I think it’s disrespectful when there’s still a couple of games to go.

“I won’t be going around saying who is coming into the club because it’s disrespectful to those who are here and to the clubs where the lads are coming from.

“Once the Bristol game is out of the way next weekend, then we can start talking about the shape of the squad for next season.

“It’s disappointing to lose players but that’s part and parcel of where we are as a club right now.”

Full back McIlwaine – one of the top performers this season – is set to join promotion-chasing Bristol but Davey has a ready-made replacement in Michael Keating who has committed his future to the club.

Davey said: “It’s disappointing to lose David because he’s been a very good player for us.

“It was unfortunate he missed the last three months through injury because that’s probably when he needed him the most.

“The lure of potential promotion with Bristol is strong, we understand that and he goes with our best wishes.

“But it’s not a major blow for the club because we have a good record of bringing in full backs.

“We had Steve McColl before, then David’s done well and we’ve got Michael Keating to slot in.

“Michael’s been one of the better players this season when he’s probably had to play a bit more rugby than we would’ve liked.

“He can play at full back, wing or centre and that versatility will be important for us.

“He’s made no secret of his desire to go back to Ireland and play in the regional set up so it’s pleasing he’s decided to stay here.

“I think another season with us to work off the rough edges and he’ll be an outstanding player.”

Winger Goss has signed for Leeds Carnegie and it is highly likely he will be joined at Headingley by centre Fred Burdon who has yet to put pen to paper on a deal.

Hooker Yeandle will join Alex Brown in moving to Exeter.

Davey said: “Fred’s not signed yet but it looks like he will be going to Leeds with Oli Goss.

“Fred’s been an excellent player for us and we wish him the best as we do with Oli who’s been here for four seasons and helped Dougie Flockhart with the conditioning work this year.

“Jack’s signing for Exeter on an academy contract but I expect he’ll be in and around the first team set-up.

“I’d just be disappointed if he ended up going out on loan at somewhere like Plymouth or Cornish next season when he could have been here.

“But that’s how it goes and it could be a great opportunity for him.”

The Knights play their final home game of the season on Saturday when Nottingham visit Castle Park (2.30pm).

Davey has urged his players to stand up and be counted after eight straight defeats.