Preview to Leeds (H - Ch'ship)

21/12/2012

Hunger could decide festive battle

Pre- and post-match analysis of rugby games often talks about the team that 'wants it more'...

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but has no place in a preview, and without the benefit of it, it's hard to say which team will be hungrier when battle commences at St Peter.

The visitors last won four weeks ago in a Yorkshire derby against Rotherham, since when they suffered a heavy home defeat to Bedford, and back-to-back cup losses against Pontypridd. Defeat is almost certain to see Leeds shunted out of their top-four play-off berth by a Bristol win over Doncaster on Sunday.

But if Leeds are hungry, Jersey should be positively ravenous. The Islanders' last win was at home to London Scottish on November 3rd, since when there have been five defeats of various types - narrow losses against Doncaster and Leinster (part 1), plucky against Newcastle, and heavy against Bristol and Leinster (part 2).

Jersey are propping up the Championship table, but know that there's a chance to make up ground on rivals Doncaster and Moseley (both three points ahead) and London Scottish (seven points clear after their recent deduction), all of whom have tough away assignments on Sunday.

Both teams slipped out of contention in the B&I following their successive defeats over the past fortnight, and it's fair to say the league has always been a clear priority for both. Squads will be restored to as close to full strength as their respective injury lists will allow, and the two sides will be going all-out for the win.

A heavy pitch is likely after continued wet weather in Jersey in the build-up to the match. This may not make for a flowing spectacle, but a compelling tussle is likely in pursuit of a victory that would be the most prized item under each side's Christmas tree.
 

News from the Jersey camp

Jersey will field a strong side as they bid to end 2012 on a winning note against Leeds Carnegie. The only RFU Championship game of the day kicks off at 3pm at St Peter tomorrow.

Ben Harvey has bolstered the squad in key areas for the return to league action following back-to-back Heineken Cup games against Leinster 'A'.

Flanker Fred Silcock is missing after sustaining a knee injury at Donnybrook in Dublin last Sunday, but otherwise the injury news is positive for Jersey, with several players returning to action.

At half-back, Nicky Griffiths will partner Mike Le Bourgeois, while in the centres Dai Bishop is selected alongside 18-year-old loan signing from Worcester, Max Stelling, who will make his third appearance in Island colours.

On a pitch that is likely to be heavy following further wet weather, Jersey's forwards are likely to have a major role to play. Jon Brennan is back at tight-head, Dave Markham gets the nod at lock ahead of Rob Anderson, and a reshuffled back-row sees Guy Thompson back at number 8 while Graham Bell switches to the flank.

'We feel that this is as robust a side as we are able to put out - these are the boys in form,' Harvey said.

Bobby Try

Director of Rugby Harvey has opted for a 5:2 split of forwards and backs on the Jersey bench, with perhaps the hardest decision being the exclusion of experienced scum-half Dave McCormack in favour of Brendan O'Brien (pictured above scoring against Leinster last weekend). Harvey will be looking for a repeat of the result when Jersey played Leeds at York RUFC in a B&I game in October. Jersey were 33-27 victors that day, having started the season with a 32-19 league defeat to Carnegie at Headingley in September.

Jersey lie bottom of the RFU Championship as the second half of the season begins, but know they will go up two places with a win, as rival clubs are not in action until Sunday.

Jersey squad, sponsored by Locate Jersey and jersey.com

1 Sean McCarthy

2 Dave Felton

3 Jon Brennan

4 Nathan Hannay (capt)

5 Dave Markham

6 Graham Bell

7 Kingsley Lang

8 Guy Thompson

9 Nicky Griffiths

10 Mike Le Bourgeois

11 Ed Dawson

12 Dai Bishop

13 Max Stelling

14 Ashley Maggs

15 Glenn Bryce
 

Replacements

16 Richard Barrington

17 Charlie Clare

18 James Gethings

19 Rob Anderson

20 Eoghan Nihill

21 Brendan O'Brien

22 Donovan Sanders
 

Any previous?

The two sides have already met twice this season, firstly at Headingley on Friday September 7th. A lively first-half finished 13-13, with Jersey registering a maiden Championship try courtesy of a fine run by Guy Thompson, with the ball taken on by Donovan Sanders and fed to Mike Le Bourgeois for the score. The home side had opened the scoring through debutant Josh Griffin.

Sadly for Jersey, the promise of the first half didn't endure, and two tries by skipper Jacob Rowan (top scorer this season with five) and another by Jamel Chisholm helped Carnegie pull clear to eventually win 32-19. A more detailed report can be found here.

At York's Clifton Park ground on October 21st, Jamel Chishol scored the only try of the first half of the B&I tie, but Jersey led 15-10 at the break courtesy of five Mike Le Bourgeois penalties.

DSC04055

Guy Thompson and Donovan Sanders scored the second-half tries that gave Jersey a little breathing space, and the Islanders hung on for a deserved win in spite of a late rally that brought the hosts back within range. Another more detailed report can be found here.
 

Leads about Leeds

Leeds Carnegie went through a summer of change after finishing their 2011/12 campaign in late April. There were plenty of departures from the club at the end of a disappointing season back in May but perhaps the most significant change came right at the top of the club. Paul Caddick handed over the reins to Sir Ian McGeechan (below), the British and Irish Lions legend, as the new Executive Chairman of the club. McGeechan has a hands-on role with the club to spearhead a drive for new sponsorship, support and development for the club in the years ahead, to try and establish Leeds Carnegie amongst the elite sides in the country once again.

Geech1

There were also changes in the coaching team. A very familiar face was missing from the dug-out after Team Manager John Carey left the club after nearly 20 years outstanding service to the club. Chris Gibson was appointed as Director of Rugby and Mark Luffman relinquished his first team coaching duties to turn his focus back entirely to the crucial work of developing the club's Academy. Former Manchester and England Counties coach Dave Baldwin was recruited as forwards coach, whilst former player Jon Pendlebury joined the Academy coaching staff after being forced to retire in the summer.

On the field the changes were also far-reaching. Senior players such as Lee Blackett, Scott Barrow, Mike MacDonald and Danny Paul have left the club whilst last year's Young Player of the Year Tommy Bell opted to join London Wasps after his season-long loan from Sale Sharks last season. In total 27 players left the club from last season.

In their place came 14 players, the biggest contingent being four from Championship runners up Cornish Pirates. Three of those are Yorkshiremen, notably David Doherty returns to the club where his career began before stop off points at Wasps, Sale, Jersey and the Pirates. Ben Hooper is another with connections to the club as the younger brother of former skipper Stuart.

Leeds have looked to inject pace into their backline with two signings from Rugby League in the shape of Jamel Chisholm from Leeds Rhinos and Josh Griffin from Castleford Tigers whilst there is plenty of power up front with Lee Imiolek and Joe Graham joining on loan for the season from Sale and Newcastle respectively along with French powerhouse Damien Tussac from Toulon.

Leeds played pre-season games against Wasps and Newcastle Falcons, losing 23-50 and 19-52 respectively, before their opening weekend clash at Nottingham.

The Yorkshire side, who apparently have the youngest squad in the Championship, took an early 20-3 lead thanks to tries by full-back Steve McColl and captain/ open-side Jacob Rowan. However the home side narrowed the deficit to 17-23 at the break and then pushed on in the second half to lead 34-26. Joe Ford's late penalty gained a bonus point for his side, although this would have been snatched away had James Arlidge landed a last-gasp effort of his own.

The opening part of the season continued in mixed fashion, the home win over Jersey being surpassed by a breathtaking 50-31 defeat of Bristol and a 42-7 trouncing of Doncaster; however Carnegie also went down narrowly to Plymouth at Brickfields and heavily to Newcastle at Kingston Park.

Resuming league action after the first wave of B&I fixtures, successive away games yielded a defeat in Cornwall at Pirate hands and a win in Richmond against London Scottish. Carnegie then got the better of Rotherham and Moseley, but suffered a heavy 25-45 home defeat to Bedford.

The Bedford game was abandoned due to a pitch that was becoming dangerously frozen, but the result stood with 65 minutes (five more than the mimimum threshold) having been played. This was one of four games played on 'out grounds' in Yorkshire while the pitch at Headingley was being relaid during the rugby league off-season. Carnegie are due to be back home for the visit of Plymouth on January 5th.

Leeds Head Coach Diccon Edwards, 39, is a former player (76 appearances) and Academy Manager at the club, appointed to his current role after the departure of Neil Back in summer 2011.

Edwards has rewarded 20-year-old back Christian Georgiou and 19-year-old forward Dominic Barrow for impressive performances in the B&I Cup with a spot in the team to face Jersey this Saturday in the Championship.

The game will be the first time that Leeds have played in Jersey but they have already faced the Channel Islanders twice this season. Leeds won a hard fought battle at Headingley Carnegie in round two of this year's Championship before losing to Jersey in the B&I Cup game at York.

Georgiou, who played at full back and fly half in the two games against Pontypridd, will start at centre in place of the injured Josh Griffin, whilst long term injuries to Richard Beck, Dan Hemingway and Mike Myerscough give Barrow the chance to impress in the second row.

Hooker Phil Nilsen will become only the 16th player in the club's history to make 100 appearances in all competitions whilst David Doherty will return to the club he played for two seasons ago.

The squad in full is:

15. Stevie McColl
14. Oli Goss
13. Christian Georgiou
12. Fred Burdon
11. David Doherty
10. Joe Ford
9. James Doherty
1. Sam Lockwood
2. Phil Nilsen
3. Damien Tussac
4. Calum Green
5. Dominic Barrow
6. Rob Baldwin
7. Jacob Rowan (c)
8. Ryan Burrows
Replacements
16. Joe Graham
17. Lee Imiolek
18. Ben Hooper
19. Matt Smith
20. Chris Walker
21. Craig Hampson
22. Matt Clark
 

What's up, Doc?

Doc

Jersey will face former winger David Doherty. The Yorkshireman began his career with Leeds in 2004 before moving on to Sale and Wasps. He spent seven months on the Island in 2010/11, making 19 appearances and scoring 19 tries. He even had a few pops at goal, landing three conversions and a penalty. His last touch of the ball in a red shirt was the final try against Loughborough in the National Two play-off, before he moved to Cornish Pirates in summer 2011.
 

Leeds Rugby Union: a historical cocktail

The history of Leeds Carnegie is a cocktail of different aged components, matured separately before being combined during more recent times and blended into a series of modern interpretations. One of the great northern combinations, like Bradford & Bingley, Trueman and Statham, and, er, Ant 'n' Dec.

Headingley Football Club were founded in 1878 and played games on Cardigan Fields, site of the current ground. The club withstood a lean spell for rugby in Yorkshire during the early part of the 20th Century, and after the Great War, but in the 1930s was prospering with excellent facilities, impressive results and representative honours.

Two notable names from the 1960s were Ian McGeechan and John Spencer. The latter was last encountered by Jersey in the club's trip to Yorkshire in January of this year, when they played the Wharfedale club of which he is now President, while McGeechan's career has gone full circle and he is now back at Leeds as Executive Chairman.

In the 1980s Peter Winterbottom was the most notable Headingley player of his era, winning 58 caps for England and seven for the Lions. His father John, a member since 1950, also played a key role in the history of Leeds, brokering the merger with Roundhay that led to the formation of Leeds RUFC in 1992.

Roundhay were formed in 1924 and had a golden era in the 1950s which included a first-ever appearance in the Yorkshire Cup Final. The loss to the Royal Signals was finally avenged in 1975 when England internationals Richard Cardus and Keith Smith helped Roundhay defeat Headingley 20-16 in a replay which followed a 13-all draw.

Merger discussions were initiated by John Winterbottom with a view to forming a single, much larger club from Headingley, Roundhay and Morley. Morley subsequently withdrew, but the merger was finalised in July 1992 with the first game played two months later.

The new club climbed the leagues and appointed professionals Colin Stephens (Youth Development Officer) and Phil Davies (Director of Rugby) in 1995 and 1996, as well as moving to Headingley Stadium. In 1998 the modern era truly arrived when rugby union in Leeds became a brand, namely Leeds Tykes, in partnership with the city's league brethren the Rhinos under the ownership of Leeds Rugby Limited, and by September 2001 the Tykes had reached the Premiership, then sponsored by Zurich.

The highlights of a five-season stint in the top flight were finishing fifth in 2002/03, earning qualification for the Heineken Cup, and lifting the Powergen Cup in 2005. But the cup success was followed by relegation 12 months later, inspite of the presence of star names like Justin Marshall and Gordon Bulloch in the squad.

The most recent incarnation of the club saw Leeds Carnegie formed in 2007 after the club returned to the Premiership and formed a partnership with Leeds Metropolitan University, who acquired a 51% share in the club. The Carnegie names came from the Scottish entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie whose Carnegie Trust funded the establishment of a PE teaching training college in 1933. Carnegie College is now the Carnegie Faculty of Sport and Education within Leeds Metropolitan University.

Current England Coach Stuart Lancaster was involved with the club for 16 years, serving as Director of Rugby before leaving in 2008 to join the England set-up. He was replaced by Andy Key, while England flanker Neil Back became Head Coach. The yo-yo existence continued with two seasons at the top level, attracting home crowds of between 4,000 and 10,000, followed by relegation in 2011 and a mid-table performance in 2011/12 (6th in the league, 3rd in promotion pool B). Last season's crowds dropped to an average figure of 2,314, third highest behind Bristol and Bedford and just ahead of Cornish Pirates.

In May 2009 it was announced that the club was re-structuring with former Wales and British Lion international Gareth Davies joining a new board of Directors, and Leeds Rugby taking control of the club once again.

In order to attract further financial support for the club, Leeds Met has returned its 51% stake in the club to Leeds Rugby and agreed a revised strategic partnership arrangement, which includes sponsorship. The name of the club remained as Leeds Carnegie RUFC.

Davies, who is a former Chief Executive of Cardiff RFC and BBC Wales Head of Sport, is the new Dean of the Carnegie Faculty of Sport & Education at Leeds Met and he will represent the university on a new board, which is headed up by Paul Caddick, the property and construction entrepreneur and former Headingley lock, as Chairman.
 

Coming to St Peter

There'll be festivity in the air at St Peter, with seasonal toons, mulled wine, mince pies and a half-time parade of youngsters led by Santa. Tickets for the match are £15 for adults, £10 for Jersey members on production of a membership card, £3 for juniors (13 to 16 inclusive) and free to those aged 12 and under. These will be on sale at the club shop between 10am and 1pm on Friday. The £3 concession rate will also be available to any full-time student on production of the appropriate identification.

Tickets will be on sale on the gate from 12noon on Saturday, with the ground and facilities open from then onwards. The usual Friday night reception at the club will be from 5.30 to 7.30pm.

Recent wet weather means another unavoidable change to parking arrangements at JRFC this weekend. With pitches 2, 3 and 6 ruled unfit for vehicular access, parking will be available on the Airport Field on Avenue de la Commune (that's the main route from the airport to Red Houses). Access is opposite the two petrol stations.

A courtesy shuttle bus service will operate between the Airport Field car park and the club, starting at the earlier time of 12noon (ideal for lunchers) and running until 5.45pm.

Spectators are urged to allow extra time to access the car park or consider other means of transport such as taxis, a lift, or the bus (services #9 and #15).
 

Following the game

Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Leeds through the following channels:

• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey from 5.30- 6pm on Friday, and live commentary on Saturday afternoon from 2pm (available online and on your transistor-wireless device)
• Preview in Friday's JEP, more rugby in Saturday's Inside Centre pull-out, and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match report on Channel 103 soon after the final whistle on Saturday, plus updates during the match
• Reports and match action on Channel TV online and on Monday evening at 6.15pm; and on BBC Channel Islands on Monday evening at 6.30pm.
 

The Championship this 'weekend'

Sunday: Newcastle v London Scottish (live on Sky TV), Bristol v Doncaster, Nottingham v Moseley

Wednesday (Boxing Day): Plymouth v Cornish Pirates, Bedford v Rotherham
 

And Finally

There's just one more fixture on the Island in 2012: players are being encouraged to turn out for the traditional Boxing Day match.

Taking place on Wednesday December 26th, the occasion will offer the chance to run off some of the excesses of Christmas Day in a fun match.

The game is being organised by club stalwarts Mick Mayo and Bob Shambrook. The exact composition of the teams will be finalised on the day, but the match is likely to be a 'native' Jersey XV taking on a team of 'imports'.

It's expected some members of the 1st XV squad will be on hand to support the two sides, but the pro players won't be taking part, leaving an occasion suitable for all ages (from 17 upwards) and abilities.

Anyone who would like to take part should come up to the club at St Peter with their kit at 10.30am on Boxing Day. The match is expected to kick-off around an hour later, and all spectators are welcome, with the clubhouse open for warming post-match drinks.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby, and have a great Christmas and even better 2013

Tom Innes

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