Preview to London Scottish (A)

01/03/2013

The Exiles, the Exeter loan-signing and the ex-Pope

Scots

Bad judgement has been rearing its head in rugby everywhere you look in recent weeks.

On the field, the tactical substitutions of Philippe Saint-Andre have raised eyebrows, as has Sergio Parisse taking up refereeing in the middle of a French Top 14 match, and the bizarre cross-field 'kick-pass' essayed by Ronan O'Gara at Murrayfield. What were they thinking?

Off-the-field, and a prime candidate has to be the risible attempt by Saracens to liven up the closing stages of their match against Exeter by acting out the tired cliche about the result not being certain until an ample-sized female had chanted. The match at the Allianz Big Top was into its last two minutes when a bloke in drag appeared with a mic during play and started singing Nessun Dorma.

Take your pick which was more crass - Saracens' sorry state-of-a-fez, or the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, who introduced former England winger Ben Cohen at a networking event as "openly gay". "Don't tell my wife," was the response from Cohen, who while he has become a gay icon, is married with twin daughters.

Jersey and London Scottish will approach their own Judgement Day hoping to steer clear of own goals. Scots seem to have been making to right decisions lately, with an impressive five wins in their last seven league games, plus a bonus point in going down 12-9 at Kingston Park. This has seen the Exiles surge up the league table - or should that be Serge up, given their new Defence Coach?

Jersey have emulated the Scots in charging up through the leagues in recent years, Scottish having been sent back to the depths of level nine after a first foray into professionalism had disastrous results. Now the Island side will aim to survive their first season at Championship level, as the Exiles did last season, before finding life a little easier second time round.

DoR Ben Harvey has master-minded Jersey's rise up the pyramid, and now will be looking to some new signings, secured in the closing days before the transfer window closes today (March 1st), to inspire a change of fortunes, particularly on the road where the Islanders have lost seven straight league games.

Three new faces are set to start for Jersey at the Athletic Ground in Richmond, for a match that starts at 2pm to allow the away side to head home afterwards. The Saturday night returns were formerly a staple of JRFC's travels, and those in the visiting camp will be hoping that the lone London fixture of the season may inspire an away win, as was often the case in previous campaigns.

News from the Jersey Camp
Ben Harvey includes three new signings in his starting XV to take on London Scottish at the Athletic Ground in Richmond tomorrow (KO 2pm).

London _Welsh _v _Exeter _111112ppauk 059

Significant changes in the back-line include Mark McCrea, signed this week from Connacht, in the centres alongside Max Stelling, while the experienced Mark Foster, a loan signing from Exeter (pictured above courtesy Exeter Chiefs/ Pinnacle), is selected on the wing. Barry Davies returns at full-back following suspension, with Mike Le Bourgeois switching to fly-half.

The Jersey pack has a more familiar look, with the exception of another new face, Charlie-Walker Blair - the former Exeter man replaces Kingsley Lang who moves to the bench. Charlie Clare gets the nod at hooker, with Dave Felton hoping to make some second-half impact as a substitute.

Jersey's replacements also include two men who have captained the side - Tongan back-five forward Talite Vaioleti, and scrum-half Dave McCormack.

Jersey squad, sponsored by Locate Jersey and jersey.com
1 Sean McCarthy
2 Charlie Clare
3 Jon Brennan
4 Nathan Hannay
5 Dave Markham
6 Charlie Walker-Blair
7 Fred Silcock
8 Guy Thompson

9 Nicky Griffiths (capt)
10 Michael Le Bourgeois
11 Ed Dawson
12 Mark McCrea
13 Max Stelling
14 Mark Foster
15 Barry Davies

Replacements
16 Richard Barrington
17 Dave Felton
18 James Gethings
19 Talite Vaioleti
20 Kingsley Lang
21 Dave McCormack
22 Donovan Sanders


Any previous?
Jersey hosted the Exiles on the final weekend of October, and built up a 13-3 lead at half-time thanks to a Guy Thompson try (captured below by Sue Trower) and eight points from the boot of Booj. Things got even better for the home side when James Copsey scored one of the best tries of the season, his finishing skill matching fine approach play from team-mates.

G UY

A 17-point margin was surely too much for the visitors? Well, in the end it was, but not before Scottish had stormed back with tries in the 52nd (a PT) and 75th minute. The second score, by Jim Thompson, gave just enough time for a winning, or tying score, but Jersey held on.

More details about the game are available HERE.

London Scottish in 2012/13
Director of Rugby Simon Amor has had a busy summer with plenty of new signings coming in both on and off the pitch as he prepared the squad to improve on last season's nail-biting finish (the Exiles grabbed a try bonus point against Esher with about a quarter of an hour of the season to go, sealing their opponents' fate in the process).

Scottish had the start they wanted with a 26-20 opening weekend success over Rotherham at the RAG, but the luck of the draw saw them face Newcastle Falcons the following weekend. The match was lost by 32-49, although the margin was the smallest for the Falcons so far (equal with their 37-20 opening day win at Brizzle).??The challenge didn't get any lesser for the Scots as they went to Bedford, and lost 55-20, but they recovered to notch wins at home to Doncaster (37-26) and the Pirates (25-24), rudely interrupted by a 54-9 drubbing at Nottingham.

Defeat in Jersey was part of a hat-trick of defeats, a black spell that got darker when news emerged of a player eligibility issue that eventually cost the Exiles a three-point deduction.

But at the end of November, a new coaching structure had been unveiled, with former Leicester and London Irish hooker James Buckland arriving as Forwards Coach, a switch to a full-time coaching schedule, and the engagement of Serge Betsen in a part-time role as Defence Coach.

Serge -Betsen -450

The 63-times capped French flanker, dubbed 'la Faucheuse' (grim reaper) for his committed tackling, has shored up the defence impressively - an average points concession of 34 per league match in the opening nine games was almost halved for the next seven outings.

The Exiles boosted morale with a 23-18 home success over Moseley, and after a defeat at Bristol came close to upsetting Newcastle two days before Christmas. The New Year has brought four impressive wins, including the teams ranled second and third, Bedford and Nottingham, plus an away win at the Mennaye over the Pirates, never an achievement to be sniffed at.

This impressive form has banished any relegation fears, with the Scots now seventh and perhaps even fancying a late dart at the play-offs, although Bristol's eight-point lead and game in hand surely leaves them with a bit too much to do.

Amor

Simon Amor (above) is the youngest Head Coach/ DoR in the Championship at 33-years-old. He has been at the club for four years and played around 80 games in four seasons. He became Head Coach in May 2010 and DoR 18 months later, and has not yet laced up his boots this season in a playing capacity.

Amor was a sevens specialist until his arrival at the RAG, including helping his country to four successive Hong Kong Sevens titles in the mid-noughties as England belatedly proved they could take the reduced form of the game seriously and achieve success in it. During this period he was also on the books of Gloucester and Wasps but his 15-a-side game time was limited by sevens commitments.

The Exiles' team will be added to this preview later on Friday. Here it is!

London Scottish have made four changes to their starting XV from the side that defeated Cornish Pirates at the Mennaye Field two weeks ago.

In the back division, Andy Reay is restored at inside centre with PJ Gidlow dropping to the replacements bench. Jamie Stevenson misses out through injury so Richard Bolt starts at scrum half with Ross Samson coming on to the bench.

There is a start for Mark Irish at loosehead prop as he lines up alongside Adam Kwasnicki and Eric Fry in the front row. Alex Karonias begins in the second row alongside Tyler Hotson and the regular back row trio of Ben Russell, Chevvy Pennycook and skipper Mark Bright will continue.

Lewis Thiede comes onto the replacements bench to provide front row cover and there is a spot for the dual-registered Sam Twomey. There is also a return to first team action for winger David Howells, who forms part of a four forwards and three backs split.

15 Jim Thompson; 14 James Love, 13 Oli Grove, 12 Andy Reay, 11 Miles Mantella; 10 Phil Godman, 9 Richard Bolt; 1 Mark Irish, 2 Adam Kwasnicki, 3 Eric Fry; 4 Alex Karonias, 5 Tyler Hotson; 6 Ben Russell, 7 Chevvy Pennycook, 8 Mark Bright (c).

Replacements:
16 Nic Mayhew, 17 Harry Allen, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 Ross Samson, 21 PJ Gidlow, 22 David Howells

History of London Scottish FC?
Like many fine institutions, London Scottish FC was formed in a pub, namely Mackay's Tavern in the City of London on April 10th 1878.

The club adopted the colours they still wear to this day, albeit with fewer sponsors' logos, and in the first season were captained by their Chairman, Begbie Gibson. The first season featured 15 matches, and three of the opposing clubs are still in existence - Wasps, Twickenham and Guy's Hospital.

Bill MacLagan captained the club in the 1880s for five seasons and was the first player to win a cap for Scotland. The club continued to thrive adding respected opponents like Oxford and Cambridge Universities and Harlequins to the fixture list and after a short period at Lee and then Brondesbury, moved to Old Deer Park in Richmond as tenants of Richmond Cricket Club and then in 1894 to their present ground the Richmond Athletic Ground, which they share with Richmond Football Club.

The club prospered, establishing an excellent playing reputation and attracting many fine players who represented their country, some of whom went onto play for the British Lions. In fact since the club was formed, this heritage has produced in the region of 220 Scottish Internationals and the same number of Lions captains as Leicester Tigers with four (MacLagan, David Bedell-Sivright in 1903/4, Mike Campbell-Lamerton in 1966 and Gavin Hastings in 1993).

Other Scottish internationals worthy of mention include a proliferation of back-row men - Mike Biggar, Rob Wainwright, Derek White and Ian Smith - as well as Paul Burnell, Alastair McHarg, Allan Lawson and Kenny Logan. Logan scored the last try of his competitive career for Scottish in December 2005 in a fiery encounter against Richmond, won 27-25 by the landlords.

The club began the league era in 1987 at level two, and by 1998 were a fully-professional unit playing in the Premiership. However this was also the season that the professional club went into administration, necessitating a year out while the original club was reformed and placed into Herts/ Middlesex Division One (level nine) in 2000.

Four successive promotions kick-started the revival, and in the past six seasons Scottish have been promoted on three further occasions to return to their original status when the leagues began 25 years ago. To call it a roller-coaster might do inadequate justice to the ride.

New man at the helm
As the Catholic Church lost a Chief Executive on Thursday (I wonder if the Pope brought cakes on his last day?), so London Scottish gains one today (Friday) with Kenny Baillie, former CEO of Glasgow Warriors, officially starting in his position.

Baillie

Baillie's appointment was announced back in January, at which point the Jersey game was looming as a possible relegation crunch match. He will no doubt be relieved that's no longer the case, and hoping his team's good form will continue.

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

• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey from 5.30 to 6pm on Friday, and live commentary on Saturday afternoon (available online and on your transistor-wireless device
• Preview in Friday's JEP, more rugby in Saturday's Inside Centre pull-out, including plenty of Welsh-related content, 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
• Preview and report on Channel TV online and on Friday and Monday evening at approx 6.15pm; and on BBC Channel Islands on Monday evening at 6.30pm

The Championship this weekend
No prizes for guessing which of the other games will be the subject of greatest interest for Jersey followers...

Saturday: Rotherham v Newcastle, Bedford v Bristol, Moseley v Doncaster

Sunday: Leeds v Cornish Pirates, Nottingham v Plymouth

And finally
There's a decent curtain-raiser in prospect for the Championship game, with the Athletic Ground also hosting Richmond Vikings v Jersey Athletic, the JRFC 2nd XV. The visiting squad has been supplemented by a number of senior squad men who have been released by Ben Harvey to allow them some game-time, including (tbc) Rob Anderson, Myles Landick, Eoghan Nihill, Glenn Bryce and James Copsey. KO is at 12noon.

Other games involving Jersey sides this weekend are Banks v Wanderers (Grainville, Saturday at 2pm), Beeches v LQ (Sunday, 2pm at LQ) and Jersey Colts away game at Winchester on Sunday.

To end on a frivolous note, JRFC has been among a range of organisations to have made a version of the Harlem Shake, a new dance (I use the word loosely) craze that has gone viral in recent weeks. The Rugby Paper is doing a poll of 10 of the best, and you can vote for Jersey's HERE (poll closes Sunday 10pm)

Enjoy your weekend's rugby
Tom Innes

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