Preview to Nottingham (H)

14/02/2013

Preview - Oscars, Valentine's and the Big Wet

Love is in the air as Nottingham make their first-ever trip to Jersey, and not just because two proud Cornishmen* will be leading their teams into battle at St Peter.

Heart

The mid-February slot in the fixture list has enabled some of the visiting fans to offer their loved ones a romantic overseas weekend get-away (as in 'I just might get away with it'). There's just the small catch (or added bonus, depending which way you look at it) of a Championship rugby match when they get here.

Hopefully the Valentine's victims were aware of the small-print, unlike a particularly long-suffering spouse who came over for 'a relaxed weekend break' (as sold) in October. Her husband casually suggested an evening stroll in St Helier soon after they had arrived and checked-in. "How about a drink, my cherub?" he asked shortly afterwards, turning into the nearest hostelry...

What followed was worthy of an Oscar, as the gentleman - I use the word loosely - managed to feign surprise that a dozen members of his rugby team were in the pub, that it just happened to be the weekend of the Jersey Vets tournament, and that just by luck he'd happened to throw a pair of rugby boots and some shorts in his case.

While the annual celebration of coarse rugby that is the Vets Tournament was kicking of, Jersey's 1st XV were heading to the airport to travel to Nottingham for a rather more serious encounter. And at about the same time that the Oscar-winner's side were lifting the Vets' trophy on the Sunday (watched by his other half - really!), Jersey were finishing a distant second at Meadow Lane: the 48-16 defeat remains the heaviest of a tough first season at level two.

Four-and-a-half months later, Jersey have found their elusive first league win, and followed it with three more, all on home soil at St Peter. Nottingham remain in the upper reaches of the league table - a certainty for the play-offs surely - but Jersey will be looking to underline the improvements they have made and make the scoreline an awful lot closer second time around.

2012/13 - the Big Wet
At the time of going to press, the home club were unsure whether the main pitch at St Peter would be fit to host the match, writes Michael Fish. A decision is likely early on Friday morning following a pitch inspection.

STOP PRESS: Following the pitch inspection it has been announced that pitch 1 remains unplayable and, subject to the referee's approval, the game will take place on the neighbouring pitch 4.

Fortunately for those planning to come to the game, especially a sizeable contingent from the Midlands, there are neighbouring pitches on stand-by, one of which could be pressed into service if need be. The Jersey v Rotherham game was moved on Saturday morning, after another night of torrential rain, to pitch 2. One Roth fan asked where pitch 2 was, only to be told that it lay between pitches 1 and 3.

Happily the weather forecast looks to have delivered kind weather from around 9am on Thursday until game-day. "About time," as many in Jersey, after a ridiculously large volume of rain throughout the winter, may say.

The final quarter of 2012 (Oct 1- Dec 31) saw 487mm of rain measured at Jersey Airport (across the road from JRFC). This was a centimetre short of being the wettest Q4 on record (records for the site date back to 1957), which occurred in 1982 - 497mm.

Since the turn of the year, rainfall at Jersey Airport has continued well above average. January saw 109mm of rain, 17% more than the monthly average of 93mm. In February there was 48mm up to the morning of Feb 11, well ahead of the average of 69mm for the entire month.

Mylo - yesterdayCotton2

It's been so wet that groundsman Myles Landick, also a member of the 1st team squad, has developed the ability to breathe underwater, and is also now indistinguishable from the legendary fellow dread-locked prop Fran Cotton in the famous pic from the Lions tour in 1977.

The consolations for 'Mylo' are that he scored a try for the 2nd team on his return last weekend, and that other grounds are suffering as well - Moseley's game with Bristol was postponed last Saturday, and the Pirates against Doncaster the following day arguably should have been - see pic below tweeted by BBC commentator Dick Straughan.

Mennaye

News from the Jersey Camp

A combination of injuries and narrow preferences means Jersey's starting XV will have six changes from the line-up who lost 38-21 to Bedford at Goldington Road last weekend.

After losing one centre, Dai Bishop, in training last week, another one was ruled out this Tuesday with Tom Cooper sustaining a knee injury which is still being assessed but rules his out this weekend.

The injuries, and Max Stelling's switch to the bench, mean Ashley Maggs and Donovan Sanders come into the midfield, while James Copsey is preferred to Chris Levesley on the wing. Ross Broadfoot and Michael Le Bourgeois remain at fly-half and full-back respectively.

Fred Silcock, an impactful replacement against the Blues, starts in the back-row ahead of Joe Buckle, while Sean McCarthy and Charlie Clare are promoted from the bench to the starting front row in place of Richard Barrington and Dave Felton.

Jersey lost 48-16 to Nottingham when the two sides met on October 7th.

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 Kingsley Lang

7 Fred Silcock

8 Guy Thompson

9 Nicky Griffiths (capt)

10 Ross Broadfoot

11 Ed Dawson

12 Ashley Maggs

13 Donovan Sanders

14 James Copsey

15 Mike Le Bourgeois

Replacements

16 Richard Barrington

17 Dave Felton

18 James Gethings

19 Paul Rodgers

20 Joe Buckle

21 Dave McCormack

22 Glenn Bryce


Any previous?
The match at Meadow Lane has been mentioned already. Jersey were hit hard with 17 points conceded in the first five minutes. Savage and Shaw claimed tries and James Arlidge added a penalty and both conversions.

The visitors recovered slightly to the extent that they were just 23-13 down at the break, Michael Le Bourgeois claiming all his side's points with a try, conversion and two penalties.

Jersey needed to score first after the break but instead it was a Green-and-White procession, with a Duffey try and two more Arlidge penalties. Ben Evans, in what was to be his last appearance as a Jersey player, was yellow-carded for repeated infringement and when replacement James Gethings had no better fortunes, a penalty try was given, before Rhys Crane rounded off the afternoon with his side's fifth try.

A fuller report can be found HERE.

Nottingham in 2012/13
A new Head Coach was appointed in the summer, with former Bath lock Martin Haag taking over following Glenn Delaney's departure after seven years to join London Irish as Forwards Coach. The 47-year-old played 295 times for Bath and won two England caps, both against Argentina in 1997. He has coaching experience both at Bath and in the England Under 18 and Under 20 set-ups.

Haag and Jersey's Ben Harvey have encountered each other on the field at least once, after Haag started to wind down his career in his home county of Cornwall (* he moved there with his family from Essex at the age of four): in March 2003 they were on opposing sides in level three when Penzance & Newlyn (a.k.a. the Cornish Pirates) hosted Stourbridge. Harvey landed three kicks for the visitors but they were defeated 44-18 by the Pirates.

As well as Delaney, another major departure was that of the long-serving Craig Hammond, the stalwart lock departing for a new career in Hong Kong after more than 10 years' service and 267 starts for Notts. This record has subsequently been reclaimed by David Jackson, who passed Hammond during September.

This year's squad is a good mix of youth and experience, with some new signings but not the revolving door process that occurs annually at many clubs.

Pulling the strings in the back-line from fly-half will be James Arlidge, 33, a Kiwi by birth who qualified to play for Japan through playing there from 2004-08, before moving to the Dragons in Wales in 2008 and Nottingham two years later. Arlidge (below) has won more than 30 caps for the 'Cherry Blossoms' and played in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Arlidge

Also in the backs, look out for another New Zealander, Sean Romans, wearing number 9, the long-serving Jackson on the wing and another old hand, Andrew Savage, who is starting his seventh season in green-and-white.

In the forwards, yet another NZ-born player, captain Brent Wilson, is one of the leading flankers in the division, having joined Notts from Newcastle midway through last season. He is joined in the back row by number 8 Alex Shaw, who has been on the books of eight clubs in spite of being only 25.

New signing from Leeds Joe Quinn will contest the second-row spots with Dan Montagu and Nic Rouse, while the front row has a strong Leicester influence. Hooker Joe Duffey and props Michael Holroyd, Matt Parr and Ryan Bower have all played for the Tigers at various points in their careers; Bower is a dual-registered player who was on the pre-season trip to Jersey and came on as a replacement in the friendly at St Peter.

Nottingham began the season with a narrow 34-29 win over Leeds on the final day of August and then played fellow Midlanders (if not quite a derby) Moseley, winning 28-17 at Billesley Common.

There followed a close tussle at Meadow Lane against Rotherham, with the scores 9-9 on the hour. However a penalty try on 63 minutes helped the visitors break the deadlock and with eight points from McKinney's boot and a late try by Sheridan, Roth were away and clear at 27-9 before the hosts claimed a last minute consolation to narrow the gap to 27-16.

The agony of a last-minute (27-25) defeat to Bedford after an impressive display - it was actually the 93rd minute - was soothed when London Scottish were put to the sword 54-9. The Green-and-Whites scored seven tries, including braces by Jackson and centre Tim Streather.

The thumping of the Exiles, and the big home win over Jersey, showed Haag's men were really beginning to hit their straps, to coin a cliché, and in fact they have only lost three times in the league since late September: by 29-9 at Kingston Park against the leaders, 11-10 at the Mennaye against the Pirates, and then the surprising 25-13 reverse against London Scottish at the RAG last weekend.

In between the isolated defeats, the Championship was going well, with decent road wins at Plymouth and Rotherham and four victories at Meadow Lane. Moseley and Doncaster may have been as expected as the result against Jersey, but two wins really made a statement - the 63-7 thumping of Bristol in early November - still the biggest scoreline in the division so far, and a thorough job against Bedford in January, even though the Blues recovered to a reasonably respectable 25-17 by the end.

Notts have had a mixed season in the British & Irish Cup but could be set to pull off something of a conjuring trick. After two rounds they had just one losing bonus point after going down to Llandovery and Doncaster Knights. Things picked up in December with a maximum haul from two games against Melrose, and a 14-16 success in the re-match with Donny, meant there was a chance to qualify for the QFs.

To claim their B&I spoils - £10,000 is available to pool winners, with a projected QF trip to Newcastle thrown in - Nottingham will have to defeat Llandovery at Meadow Lane next weekend, claiming a bonus point and denying one to the visitors, and win by 10 clear points, but this looks to be a feasible ambition unless the Welsh play out of their skins.

Nottingham squad

15 Andrew Savage 14 Alex Lewington 13 Tim Streather 12 Joe Munro 11 David Jackson 10 James Arlidge 9 Sean Romans 1 Matt Parr 2 Joe Duffey 3 Michael Holford 4 Dan Montagu 5 Nic Rouse 6 Rupert Cooper 7 Brent Wilson 8 Alex Shaw.

Replacements from: 16 Shaun Malton 17 Ryan Bower 18 Joe Quinn 19 Tom Calladine 20 Finlay Barnham 21 Joe Cobden 22 Andy Forsyth.

History of Nottingham RFC
The club was formed in 1877 by former Rugby School pupil Alick Birkin, who returned to his home city and recruited some friends to play the game he'd enjoyed at the school where William Webb Ellis invented it some 50 years previously.

Nottingham -Rugby -Logo

The Birkin family were involved in Nottingham rugby until the mid 1950s, including the donation of land at Ireland Avenue, Beeston, in 1904 by Alick's brother Leslie - this was the club's home for more than a century until it was sold in 2006.

Nottingham have spent most of the 25 seasons of the league era at level two, now the RFU Championship - the club first entered this league in the early 90s, and though relegated in 1996/97 they were back after being runners-up at level three in 2003/04.

Since their return, the club's best finish has been third in 2007/08, but they have failed to make an impact in the promotion play-offs in the past three seasons, with a trio of identical finishes - fifth in the regular season, third in their promotion pool. This season, with the play-off stakes halved to a field of four, they are vying for second place with Bedford and should be involved when the knock-out stages commence in May.

The club is owned by Meadow Lane plc, which also owns Notts County FC, and have played at Meadow Lane since 2006.

VH Cartwright was Nottingham's first England player, winning 14 caps in the early 1900s and subsequently becoming President of the RFU.

The 1980s was a golden era, with Nottingham runners-up in the National Merit Table in 1985/86 and having no less than five England caps during the decade: Gareth Rees, Rob Andrew, Brian Moore, Chris 'Swing Low' Oti and Simon Hodgkinson, as well as the Scotland lock Chris Gray.

Recent internationals include James Arlidge, the US full-back Chris Wyles (now at Saracens) and the New Zealand lock Ali Williams, who played a month of rugby with the Green-and-Whites as part of a successful return from injury in early 2011. That's successful as in he won the World Cup 10 months later...

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. Tickets can also be purchased on Friday evening, when the Pavilion Bar will be open for a pre-match reception between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, with free nibbles and the chance for rival supporters to socialise ahead of the following day's game.

Recent wet weather means parking will be once again 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 12noon (ideal for lunchers ahead of their 12.30pm meal) 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).

Wherever the match ends up being played, sensible footwear is recommended. Pack the stilettos in your handbag/ kitbag/ manbag for wearing later.

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

* Live commentary on BBC Jersey, available online and on your transistor-wireless device, with the show starting at 2pm, plus preview on Friday evening from 5.30 to 6pm
* Preview on Channel TV on Friday evening between 6 and 6.30pm, and highlights at the same time on Monday (also available online)
* Match report on Channel 103 just after 5pm
* Preview in Friday's JEP, the Inside Centre pull-out with Saturday's paper and full match coverage on Monday
* Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum


The Championship this weekend
While Moseley look to have a near-impossible mission against the Falcons, the visitos at Kingston Park will take heart that London Scottish almost pulled off a major surprise just before Christmas, eventually losing 12-9. 12th-placed Doncaster look to have a more realistic chance of points, albeit against a play-off contender, when they host a rare Saturday afternoon fixture against local rivals Leeds.

Last weekend's results see the first signs of a mid-table group of clubs emerging. Plymouth, Rotherham and London Scottish have surely done enough to stay up already, and only an amazing run of wins would propel them into play-off contention. That leaves Bedford, Bristol and the Pirates trying to maintain their play-off ambitions.

Friday: Newcastle v Moseley (8pm)
Saturday: Doncaster v Leeds 2.30pm; Plymouth v Bedford 3pm
Sunday: Cornish Pirates v London Scottish 2.30pm;?Bristol v Rotherham Titans 3pm

And Finally
The Preview is proud to be the forum in which the really tough questions are posed, and answers demanded. With this in mind, we seek to determine whether Martin Haag is unique among Championship bosses - is Haag the only man to wear a tie on match-days, and does he do this for every game, only for home games, or only for games that are televised on Sky?

Martin +Haag

Meanwhile, it is hoped there will be some rugby for local sides in Jersey this weekend. On Saturday Beeches play Banks at Les Quennevais at 11.30am and at 1pm on the same pitch (no injury time please ref!) Jersey Wanderers host St Jacques from Guernsey, who are over en masse for the 50th birthday of club stalwart Stef Bampton. Happy Birthday Stef, see you at St Peter later on!

On Sunday Jersey Athletic will host LQ Lydian Lions at St Peter at 2pm, while Banks Ladies travel to Guildford for a league match.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby
Tom Innes

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