Preview to London Welsh (H) 04.01.1403/01/2014
An eventful start to 2014 saw Jersey announce the appointment of
a new Head Coach. Harvey Biljon, the 36-year-old former Assistant
Coach at Cornish Pirates, signed a three-year contract. (See full
Jersey were delighted at the capture of someone with good pedigree at Championship level and ready to take the next step up. In doing so, Jersey hope he will turn around a difficult season that began well but has featured just one win since mid-October, and included the departure of Director of Rugby Ben Harvey at the start of December.
Jersey's pleasure at the new signing has been heightened by some glowing tributes and expressions of disappointment from Cornwall. Most were philosophical and recognised a good opportunity for the South African former Wasps scrum-half, although some Pirates' fans were disturbed by yet more traffic on the route between Penzance and Jersey. One suggested that the Cornish side check that their floodlights were solidly fixed in place...
All this took place on the eve of an important game for the Islanders, with London Welsh coming to St Peter for the first ever competitive meeting - perhaps the first ever - between the clubs. The Welsh spent most of the first half of the season at the top of the table until successive league defeats enabled Bristol to sneak a point ahead after playing their 12th game a week ahead of their rivals.
The two clubs have agreed 2pm starts for both of their league
matches this season to enable the visiting team to fly home
afterwards. Supporters are urged to allow extra time as car parking
may be limited, depending on rainfall in the 24 hours leading to
kick-off, and consider other means of travel to the game.
News from the Jersey Camp
For all the interest and excitement of the new appointment, Jersey have hung up the 'Business as Usual' sign for this weekend's game ahead of the arrival of Harvey Biljon on Monday.
Partly to minimise disruption, and partly due to some ongoing injury concerns, Interim Head Coach Steve Boden makes minimal changes to his squad.
Tom Fidler gets a start in the front row, with Sean McCarthy moving to the replacements' bench. The only other change among the forwards from the pre-Christmas match against Moseley sees Nick Campbell back in the starting XV, with Dave Markham selected on the bench.
Jersey's starting backs are unchanged, but the squad is boosted by the return after injury of Nicky Griffiths, who takes a place on the bench.
Jersey squad v London Welsh (H) Saturday January 4th 2013, k-o 2pm
Alex Rae (capt)
Sean McCarthy, David Felton, Nick Selway, Latu Makaafi, Dave Markham, Joel Dudley, Nicky Griffiths.
The two clubs certainly haven't met in the modern era, and I've not unearthed any evidence of any meetings going further back in time, although I wouldn't rule out the Exiles having made a sneaky tour at some stage way back when. If anyone has any info on this front, do tell!
London Welsh in 2013/14
In the wake of relegation from the Premiership, the Exiles recruited Justin Burnell (pictured below) as Head Coach. Burnell, 46, was a flanker with Pontypridd, Treorchy, Bridgend and Neath in his playing days - if he'd been playing 10 years later he'd no doubt have ended up with a cap or three - who was subsequently a member of the coaching set-up at Cardiff Blues for five seasons, including two as joint Head Coach.
Burnell set to work on some recruitment of his own: former England international Tom May joined as team captain, as did ex-British & Irish Lions hooker Andy Titterrell. Assistant coach and fly half Gordon Ross and former Wales centre Sonny Parker, club captain Matt Corker, scrum half Rob Lewis and back row duo Richard Thorpe and Daniel Browne all add further experience, to match the youthful talents of the likes of Seb Stegmann (a Harlequins Academy graduate who went on to play for Quins 1st XV before joining Esher), Nick Scott, Carl Kirwan (a try-scorer for Rotherham v Jersey 16 months ago), Peter Browne and Will Robinson. So far it's proven to be a good blend.
More recently the Exiles have added ex-Pirate Ian Nimmo and James Tincknell, who started the season at the Pirates (having played against Jersey for Wharfedale in January 2012), to their squad, while five-times-capped England centre Ollie Smith joined the coaching set up soon after leaving Esher.
The season started well with wins over last season's play-off duo Bedford (in the double-header) and Nottingham, albeit that both sides have been less impressive this time around.
Plymouth were despatched 40-9 at home and Welsh moved to the top of the table, ahead of Rotherham, courtesy of a narrow 27-32 success at Clifton Lane.
The British & Irish Cup didn't start too well for the Welsh, defeated by London Scottish and Pontypridd in their opening games. They won back-to-back matches against Edinburgh Accies last month and could yet manage a quarter-final place.
Back in the league, Welsh beat Cornish Pirates with ease and were then more stretched by Leeds and Bristol, as well as Ealing who showed they were getting to grips with the division in a 28-0 defeat to the unbeaten league leaders.
After defeating Moseley - 8-24 at Billesley Comon, the Welsh were finally downed by Bedford in a 28-26 thriller at Goldington Road.
After the December B&I break, Welsh played their fellow Exiles London Scottish at the Kassam (pictured below). The Sky game was played in terrible conditions, and the Scots made the better of it, chiselling away to a 0-13 lead before Alan Awcock grabbed a consolation try, Alex Davies' conversion attempt failing to achieve a bonus point with the final kick.
History of London Welsh RFC
The history of London Welsh so far began, as it finished, with a
defeat to London Scottish. In October 1885 the Scots won by a try
and a goal at Saracens' old Walthamstow ground in East
The club has produced a steady stream of Welsh internationals, although in the current squad only Sonny Parker (31 caps between 2002-08) has achieved that honour. The club's website puts the total of Welsh caps over the years as 126, plus an incredible quota of British Lions - 47.
The club achieved an amazing feat in 1971 when seven players toured New Zealand with the Lions. Five of them appeared in all four tests - Gerald Davies, Mervyn Davies, JPR Williams, John Taylor and John Dawes. Picture below, full details HERE
When the league structure was introduced in 1987, Welsh started at the level they are now, but then suffered consecutive relegations in seasons two and three.
The 1990s saw the Exiles make it back up to the second tier, where they stabilised for 13 seasons, including surviving going into administration in 2009.
In 2011/12 London Welsh seized the moment, firstly on the field in the play-offs by defeating Bristol and Cornish Pirates, and then in the courtroom. By late June Welsh had successfully challenged the ruling that they could not take their place in the Premiership, staging their home games at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford and thereby meeting the Premiership's Minimum Standards Criteria.
Life in the Premiership is rarely easy for the promoted side, and the summer of uncertainty didn't help preparations for the Welsh, although they made a good fist of the first half of the season, winning four games. But after Christmas there was a five-point deduction for fielding an ineligible player, and there wasn't another win until it was too late, a final day success over nearest rivals Worcester
Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v the Exiles through the following channels:
- Preview on BBC Radio Jersey on Friday from 5.30pm, and live commentary on Saturday afternoon (available online and on your transistor-wireless device)
- Preview in Friday's JEP, more coverage in Saturday's paper (on sale from 7am) and full match coverage on Monday
- Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
- Match report on Channel 103 on Saturday afternoon
- 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 Greene King IPA Championship this weekend
Half-time in matches in round 12 of the league marks the exact half-way mark of the season. The variable scheduling of the festive season means that four teams have already turned for home. Bristol and Moseley played their 12th league match at the Memorial Stadium last Saturday in front of nearly 7,000 supporters. Bristol won 29-8 and in the process went top of the table.
London Scottish could have claimed top spot after some impressive form to close off 2013, but ended up leaving Goldington Road empty-handed after Bedford clung onto a narrow lead with 14 men after Paul Tupai's red card with 15 minutes to go, and finished up with a last kick penalty to win 21-13 and deprive the Exiles of even a bonus point. Michael Le Bourgeois scored the game's opening try.
The rest of the division will catch up as follows:
Saturday January 4
Titans v Pirates KO 2pm
Albion v Leeds KO 3pm
Sunday January 5
Nottingham v Ealing KO 3pm
Enjoy your weekend's rugby!