Preview to Bristol (A)


Shell-shocked, or motivated? Jersey wait to see what hosts Bristol have in store

Bristol _rugby _logo

The peaks and troughs of professional rugby have been a feature of life for Bristol Rugby since the game opened up in the mid-1990s, at which point Jersey were playing their rugby in London Division Four. The chances of the two sides meeting were remote, even as recently as 2005 when Jersey began their climb up the league ladder.

The ascent has now reached level two, and while the newcomers are at the bottom end of the table, they travel to the Memorial Stadium with a little bit of form behind them: four matches unbeaten, including successive league wins. The home side, in contrast, have been searching their souls after a 63-7 hammering at Nottingham last Sunday.

Recent form has persuaded some to suggest that Jersey might even be favourites for the game, although a glance at the pedigree of the Bristol squad makes this, surely, a fanciful notion. But certainly one team will be under far greater pressure to perform. Bristol get the league's biggest crowds, and the home supporters expect them to be at the top of the table and challenging for a return to the top table, not languishing in eighth place with just three wins from eight league game so far.

Jersey's followers hope that the home team may still be shell-shocked following their defeat last weekend, and feeling the pressure, while Bristol will be desperate to put on a show in front of their passionate home crowd.

News from the Jersey camp
Director of Rugby Ben Harvey has made just two changes to his starting XV from the line-up who defeated Plymouth Albion last weekend, plus a positional switch and one new face on the bench.


Winger James Copsey, scorer of Jersey's lone try in the 16-14 win over Albion, misses out with an ankle injury. Former Osprey and Welsh international Barry Davies comes into the side at full-back, with Glenn Bryce taking Copsey's place on the wing. Chris Levesley (above) is the player called up to the replacements' bench and could make his first appearance of the season.

"James has scored two good tries in the past fortnight, so it will be a loss," states Harvey. "But others in the team need to step up and show that they can finish equally well."

At scrum-half Nicky Griffiths returns to the starting XV in place of Brendan O'Brien, who switches to the bench.

Harvey will be taking on the side where he began his senior playing career in the mid-1990s, while another member of the visiting party is centre Ashley Maggs. The Bristolian spent two years with his home-town club from 2006 but failed to win 1st XV selection and became one of Harvey's first signings when he move to the Channel islands in 2008.

"Bristol have been one of the old guard of English rugby for decades and decades, but we will go there with confidence and aiming to keep up the momentum of recent weeks," Harvey added.

After losing their first six Championship games, Jersey have been undefeated in their last four matches, including successive league victories that lifted the Islanders off the bottom of the table ahead of the ninth round of games this weekend.

Jersey squad, sponsored by Locate Jersey and
1 Sean McCarthy
2 Steve Boden
3 James Gethings
4 Rob Anderson
5 Nathan Hannay (capt)
6 Paul Rodgers
7 Kingsley Lang
8 Guy Thompson
9 Nicky Griffiths
10 Mike Le Bourgeois
11 Ed Dawson
12 Ashley Maggs
13 Donovan Sanders
14 Glenn Bryce
15 Barry Davies

16 Dave Felton
17 Richard Barrington
18 Jon Brennan
19 James Voss
20 Dave Markham
21 Brendan O'Brien
22 Chris Levesley

Bristol in 2012/13
Liam Middleton began the build-up to his second season in charge with a busy spell of transfer activity. The incoming brigade were spearheaded by former Leicester scrum-half James Grindal, 32, who racked up around 220 league appearances in a 13-season career including spells at both Welford Road and with Newcastle.

Grindal is backed up by the experienced Kiwi number 9 Ruki Tipuna, while at fly-half there are also two tried-and-tested options in Adrian Jarvis, who spent three years at the Mem from 2008-11 and has since rejoined via Leeds and London Irish, and Tristan Roberts, whose former clubs include Cinderford, Gloucester, Moseley and Doncaster.

Although the half-back positions may best reflect the strength of the Bristol squad, there's no shortage of talent and experience elsewhere. Several players are back at Bristol after spells elsewhere, such as centre Luke Eves, who was with Bristol for four years and then went to Newcastle in 2010 before returning, while on the wing look out for Michael Tagicakibau who was a summer signing from Saracens.

The Bristol back-line has been depleted through long-term injuries to centres Bryan Rennie and Fautua Otto, and former Gloucester full-back Jon Goodridge, and the Nottingham game claimed another victim in the centre with Jack Gadd suffering an injury that will rule him out until around Christmas.

Added beef in the forwards arrived this summer in the shape of props Kyle Traynor from Edinburgh and Gaston Cortes from Cordoba in Argentina, and the Argentine influence continues with nine-times-capped Mariano Sambucetti in the second row, alongside Roy Winters. Born in 1975, the same year as Jersey's Ben Evans, Winters spent five years at both Bedford and Harlequins early in his career before joining Bris in 2005.

Back row options include the former Gloucester flanker James Merriman and another returnee via Kingston Park, Red Pennycook, whose brother Chevvy was formerly at the Mem but now plays for Moseley.

Having topped the pile in the regular season last time out, Bristol were one of the favourites for a play-off spot this season, although their odds were not surprisingly longer than newly-relegated Newcastle, who were setting out their stall to return whence they came at the earliest opportunity.

The Falcons stall was a mobile one to begin the season, and its first port-of-call happened to be the Mem, with Bristol finishing beaten but not disgraced by 20-37 (only Bedford have achieved a lower deficit against Newcastle thus far in losing 20-29 last weekend).

Things were likely to get easier, and so they did with gritty but reasonably emphatic wins over Doncaster and the Pirates, but then Bris met a Leeds side at its peak and were on the wrong end of a 50-31 scoreline at Headingley. This signalled the start of a rough patch that continued with a home defeat by Moseley where The Rugby Paper described a game where Bristol were trying to convert four points for a win into a full-house five, but lost possession and ended up with just a single point in a 21-22 defeat. And then it was up to Rotherham, and another loss, by 23-16.

The British & Irish Cup brought relief in the form of wins over Cardiff and Ulster 'A', and the cup momentum carried on into the Championship when Bedford were convincingly beaten at the Mem, only for the wheels to come off by the time Liam Middleton's men turned out at Meadow Lane.

Bristol Rugby team to face Jersey:
Jason Hobson is included in the starting line-up for the first time this campaign as Bristol Rugby look to bounce back against Jersey on Sunday (3pm KO).

 The prop - who scooped the Club's Player of the Year award last season - returns from a lengthy spell on the sidelines, providing a timely boost to Liam Middleton's plans.

 The Head Coach makes a total of eight changes from the side that went down to a 63-7 drubbing at the hands of Nottingham last Sunday.
George Watkins and Ben Mosses are named in the backline, while Adrian Jarvis makes his first competitive start for Bristol since joining in the summer.

 Bruce Douglas and Mariano Sambucetti come into the front five in place of Gaston Cortes and Ben Glynn, while skipper Iain Grieve starts in the back-row.

 Kyle Traynor (Scotland) and Alafoti Faosiliva (Samoa) are unavailable after being called up for international duty.

 Middleton opts for a five forwards and two backs split on the bench, with Rhys Lawrence returning to the 22-man squad after a five-game absence.

Bristol (15-9, 1-8):
Jack Tovey; George Watkins, Luke Eves, Ben Mosses, Mike Tagicakibau; Adrian Jarvis, Ruki Tipuna; Bruce Douglas, Ross Johnston, Jason Hobson, Mariano Sambucetti, Roy Winters, Iain Grieve (c), Redford Pennycook, Mitch Eadie.
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Mark Lilley, Wayne Thompson, Ben Glynn, James Merriman, James Grindal, Tristan Roberts.

History of Bristol Rugby Club
The club was formed in 1888 through the merger of two local sides Redland Park and Westbury Park, and within 12 years had their first England cap, J.W. Jarman. A contemporary was James Peters, who played for Bristol prior to becoming the first black man to play for England in 1906.

Bristol played the touring New Zealanders in 1905, and in 1921 the Memorial Ground was opened.

An interesting name from the 1940s was the athlete Jack Gregory, who won a sprint-relay silver medal at the 1948 Olympics in London and was also capped at rugby by England.

Two of Bristol's finest years came in 1965/66, when the 1st XV won 39 games, and in 1971/72 when the club were unofficial champions of England and also the Anglo-Welsh league. The former England skipper John Pullin was a lynchpin of the Bristol side during this period.

In 1983 Bris won the John Player Cup, beating Leicester 28-22 under the captaincy of England flanker Mike Rafter. The team included Alan Morley, who scored 384 tries for Bristol in 519 appearances between 1968 and 1986.

When the league era began, Bristol competed at the top level for 11 seasons and relegation in 1997/98 was a one-season affair. The club bounced straight back and recruited proven performers like Henry Honiball (South Africa), Uruguayan prop Pablo Lemoine, Canadian flanker Al Charron, the feisty second row Garath Archer and Argentine scrum-half Agustin Pichot. Pichot was joined the following year by his compatriot Manuel Contepomi and the Australian centre Jason Little, plus England prop Julian White.

Bristol looked set at the top level, but the 2002/03 season ended up as a bitter memory when owner Malcolm Pearce pulled out and the club ended up relegated. This time it took two seasons to get back up, but in 2006/07 under the guidance of former England scrum-half Richard Hill, the club achieved their highest-ever league ranking, third in the Premiership, followed by a play-off loss to Leicester Tigers.

Once again there was a swing in fortunes before too long and in 2009 Bristol were relegated, with former England full-back Paul Hull replacing Hill. There were hopes of getting straight back up, but these were dashed at the final hurdle with play-off defeat by Exeter, who won just 9-6 at home but then beat Bristol soundly at the Mem 29-10 in the second leg. 2010/11 was a disappointment, with the club only just escaping the ignominy of the relegation play-offs, but again there was the opportunity to strengthen and rebuild, resulting in a far stronger showing in 2011/12.

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

• Live commentary on BBC Jersey, available online and on your transistor-wireless device, with the show starting at 2pm. Before that the 'Beeb' will look ahead to the game on Friday evening from 5.30 to 6pm and also during Saturday afternoon's Sportscene programme

• The JEP will look ahead to the game in both Friday and Saturday's editions, and there'll be full match coverage on Monday

• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum.

The Championship this weekend
Just as well Sky aren't covering our august division this weekend, or the label 'Sod-All Saturday' might have been pressed into service.
Friday: Newcastle v Nottingham in a top-of-the-table encounter; Doncaster v Bedford; Plymouth v London Scottish
Sunday: Pirate v Rotherham; Leeds v Moseley (at Wharfedale RUFC)

And finally
Richmond Vikings visit Jersey this weekend hoping for better weather than when their trip was aborted last season. They play Jersey Athletic at 12.30pm at St Peter tomorrow, while the other game with local interest is on Sunday - good luck to the ladies of Jersey United Banks in their league match at Bracknell.

The Autumn internationals also start this weekend - among the games are two that will be live in the clubhouse after the Richmond game - England v Fiji at 2.30 and Ireland v South Africa at half five.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby
Tom Innes


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