Preview to Leinster 'A' (Home)

07/12/2012

If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.

leins sml

In asking 'Which Leinster 'A' side is going to turn up at St Peter?' the intention isn't to wind up our opponents, as Brian Moore famously did with the French national side a few years back.

It's simply a matter that the 'A' team's personnel is hard to predict far in advance, being dependent on the players selected for Leinster's senior side, the reigning Heineken Cup holders, for the away tie against Clermont Ferrand.

The -a -team

The A-Team will be arriving in Jersey on Friday evening on a charter flight which suggests that few of the squad share the travel anxiety of B.A. Baracus - "I ain't goin' on no airplane!"

Some members of the team will be in duty in France, not Jersey, such as Brian 'Face' O'Driscoll and Sean 'Murdock' O'Brien, but the A-Team will have the experience of Coach Colin 'Hannibal' McEntee to steer them through this trip into the unknown. And yes, of course he loves it when a plan comes together...

Colin -Mc Entee -blue -training -10  Hannibal -a -team

Hannibal                                 Colin

In October, when Leinster seniors struggled to a 9-6 home win over Exeter in a 3pm kick-off, no fewer than four unused subs from the 23-man Heineken squad were placed into the squad against Leeds for the British & Irish Cup tie against Leeds at 7pm, including scrum-half Isaac Boss, who played at the World Cup last year and has 15 Irish caps. Not surprisingly, Leinster won 47-18.

A week later and there was no opportunity for the same mixing-and-matching in Wales when the 'A' team took on Pontypridd, as the fixture clashed with the seniors' game at Llanelli the same day. This, and a fired-up Welsh side, meant a much closer game with Ponty snatching it 25-23 at the death.

As well as 23 players making up the Heineken Cup squad this weekend, it is likely that there will be another two or three travelling reserves with the senior side in France, plus perhaps half a dozen injured players. The 'A' team will be selected after this, and if this conjures up images of barrels being scraped, then the Jersey camp may be falling into a trap.

The reality is that Leinster is a well-resourced province with around 60 players across the senior and academy squads, plus the capability to draw reinforcements from the top tier of Irish club rugby, the All-Ireland League. These players will relish the chance to impress in the representative colours of their province, while their full-time counterparts know that if members of the Heineken Cup squad are injured or off-colour against Clermont, an impressive display could lead to promotion next weekend.

Pool 5 in the B&I is well-poised with Jersey, Ponty and the A-Team locked together on six points each, while Leeds are trailing on one point and could be out of the reckoning unless they can beat the Welsh side at West Park Leeds' ground on Sunday. As with Leinster seniors' games against Clermont, the back-to-back fixtures over the next two weekends may play a major part in determining who wins the group.

For Jersey the match is an opportunity to put the woes of a below-par display at Doncaster last time out behind them and return to the form of previous B&I outings - the draw against Ponty in a game the Islanders dominated, and the win against Leeds at York. The squad and home crowd will also be hoping for an injection of feel-good factor at St Peter following Thursday's news that the charismatic figure of Player-Coach Ben Evans had left the club.

News from the Jersey camp
Director of Rugby Ben Harvey makes a series of changes in the wake of a highly-disappointing Championship defeat at Doncaster last weekend, starting in the front row where Dave Felton and Sean McCarthy are called up. Teenager James Voss and former Loughborough Student Fred Silcock earn selection in the back row.

Stelling

Another teenager, new loan signing Max Stelling (above), will start at centre, while Ashley Maggs returns after suspension and slots in at right wing. Barry Davies plays full-back, while Dave McCormack returns to the scrum-half position.

Jersey's bench features back-row man Graham Bell who is set for his first rugby since sustaining a knee injury in Jersey's fixture at Sedgley Park in February.

'The British & Irish Cup games in October were the catalyst for some much-improved form, and results, and the aim is for a similar situation this time around,' states Harvey.

The match will be Jersey's first since the departure of Welsh international Ben Evans, who left his role as Player-Coach by mutual consent this week after 18 months with the Island side.

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 James Voss
7 Fred Silcock
8 Guy Thompson
9 Dave McCormack
10 Mike Le Bourgeois
11 Ed Dawson
12 Dai Bishop
13 Max Stelling
14 Ashley Maggs
15 Barry Davies

Replacements
16 Richard Barrington
17 James Gethings
18 Rob Anderson
19 Eoghan Nihill
20 Kingsley Lang
21 Brendan O'Brien
22 Chris Levesley

Leinster 'A' in 2012/13

Leinster's line-up is packed with players who have played international rugby for their country at junior levels, with every chance that future stars to replace the like of Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara in the Irish side may be on show.

Irish Under 20 caps include prop Jack O'Connell, centre Brendan Macken, and scrum-half John Cooney, a former pupil of Gonzaga College in Dublin, the school attended by Jersey's James Gethings.

Leinster Leo Auvaa Mr -t1

Experience and power is provided from the base of the scrum by Wellington-born number eight Leo Auva'a (above, with look-a-like), who plays alongside 22-year-old skipper Rhys Ruddock, a man with Heineken Cup experience comprising four appearances and a try against Bath.

Dominic Ryan has given the management a fitness boost after missing the last three months through injury after being named in the back-row for the trip to Jersey. Ryan is joined by Leo Auva'a and Rhys Ruddock, who leads the team.

Tom Denton, Aaron Dundon and Jamie Hagan - who have all featured for the Senior team in recent weeks - are also included, while in the backline Cooney is paired with Noel Reid at half back.

LEINSTER 'A':
15: Cathal Marsh
14: Andrew Boyle
13: Brendan Macken
12: Jordan Coghlan
11: Adam Byrne
10: Noel Reid
9: John Cooney
1: Jack O'Connell
2: Aaron Dundon
3: Jamie Hagan
4: Ben Marshall
5: Tom Denton
6: Rhys Ruddock CAPTAIN
7: Dominic Ryan
8: Leo Auva'a

REPLACEMENTS:
16: Thomas Sexton
17: Martin Moore
18: Tadhg Beirne
19: Conor Gilsenan
20: Luke McGrath
21: Tom Daly
22: Steve Crosbie


A Brief History of Leinster Rugby
In amateur days, the four Irish provinces (see map below) played against each other in the Irish Interprovincial Championship and also played touring international sides. The first Interprovincial matches between Leinster, Ulster and Munster were held in 1875. At this time, the matches were played with 20 players a side. Leinster lost to Ulster by a converted try and beat Munster by one goal to nil. Since then there has been a match between these teams annually, with Connacht joining the fold in 1885.

220px -Ireland Rugby Provinces

The Leinster Branch of the Irish RFU was officially formed in 1879 in a meeting at Grafton Street in Dublin.

The first official overseas touring side that came to play Leinster was an Australian touring side in 1957. Since then, Leinster has played against every major touring side from Fiji to France.

Before the days of professional rugby union, there was a greater emphasis on Irish club rugby as opposed to the provincial game. During these times the provincial sides were purely representative sides and games were far less frequent than now. When rugby union was declared 'open' in 1995, these four teams became the four professional teams run by the Irish Rugby Football Union.

The Heineken Cup began in 1995 and Leinster reached the semi-finals, one of six seasons in which the province reached the knock-out stages in the first 13 seasons of the European competition, without ever making the final.

Finally in 2008/09 Leinster beat Harlequins in the 'Bloodgate' quarter-final match, and then Munster to reach their first final, which they won against Leicester 19-16. The following season saw a semi-final loss against Toulouse, but Leinster have since won two more European crowns with back-to-back successes over the past two seasons, overcoming Northampton and Ulster in the finals. Only Toulouse (4) have won more Heineken titles.

Leinster have twice won the Rabo Direct Pro 12 (Celtic) League, formerly sponsored by Magners, in 2002 and 2008, as well as being runners-up on four occasions. Last season's bid for a Heineken/ Pro 12 double was thwarted by a last-minute try by the Ospreys in the Pro 12 final, the Welsh side winning 31-30.

Leinster 'A' have competed in the British & Irish Cup every year since its inception. After failing to qualify for the knock-out stages in 2009/10, they lost 50-15 the following season in a quarter-final at Bedford. Last season they beat Ponty at the quarter-final stage only to be edged out by Munster in the semi-final 36-29 after extra time.

Leinster Connections
We have already mentioned James Gethings, a product of Gonzaga College in Dublin, who played alongside the likes of Cian Healy and Keith Earls in the Irish Under 19 side in the 2006 World Cup and also captained Irish Universities. 'Geths' has become an increasingly important member of the Jersey pack since his arrival in January 2012 - he may be better-known for his work in the tight than his match-winning tries. But check out this match report from 2004. And see the proud skipper pictured with the Irish Universities side below.

Ire Universities Team

Two former players from the renowned Wanderers club in Dublin will be on the Jersey bench, namely Brendan O'Brien and Eoghan Nihill. The pair were born on the other side of Ireland in Limerick, but moved to Dublin as students.

Not involved, but no doubt a keen spectator, will be Steve O'Brien, older brother of Leinster and Ireland's Sean. Injury checked the older brother's rise towards possible representative honours in his late teens, but he since moved to Jersey and played for the Island side for a decade, including more than 250 appearances. Steve's retirement last April (after the game against Fylde, Steve pictured below with a post-match Guinness) left prop Jon Brennan as the only Jersey player to be involved at 1st XV level since before the first professionals came to the Island in 2006.

Ben And Steve

At one stage earlier this season there was the tantalising prospect that Sean O'Brien might be using the B&I Cup games with Jersey as part of his return from a hip injury suffered in June, but in fact he was back in time for two Pro 12 appearances in late November, leading to a place in the Heineken Cup squad this weekend. As a by-product of this, Steve's plans for a one-off comeback were also shelved.

Coming to St Peter
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. There will be no Friday night reception at the club this weekend.

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 (that means it's our pleasure, and won't cost anything) shuttle bus service will operate between the Airport Field car park and the club, starting at 1.15pm 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 Leinster 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
• Specially commissioned report in the Irish Times on Sunday or Monday.

The B&I this weekend
Friday 7th December:
Nottingham v Melrose, Pool 8, 19:45
Saturday 8th December
Rotherham v Munster A, Pool 7, 14:00
Bridgend Ravens v Bristol, Pool 1, 14:30
Ulster A v Cardiff, Pool 1, 14:30
Neath v Bedford, Pool 2, 14:30
Carmarthen Quins v Dundee HSFP, Pool 3, 14:30
Cross Keys v Connacht A, Pool 4, 14:30
Newport v Newcastle Falcons, Pool 5, 14:30
Aberavon v Plymouth Albion, Pool 7, 14:30
Stirling County v Bedwas, Pool 2, 15:00
Jersey v Leinster A, Pool 5, 15:00
Gala v Moseley, Pool 6, 15:00
Llandovery v Doncaster, Pool 8, 15:00
Sunday 9th December
Cornish Pirates v Swansea, Pool 3, 14:00
London Scottish v Llanelli, Pool 8, 14:30
Leeds v Pontypridd, Pool 5, 15:00

And Finally
Local rugby action in Jersey this weekend sees Beeches entertain St Jacques of Guernsey in a JRA League fixture at Les Quennevais at 11.30am, while the United Banks club will be focusing on the Jerry King Memorial Match at Grainville at 2.30pm.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby... "SHUT UP FOOL!"
Tom Innes

 

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