Preview to Cornish Pirates (H) 01.09.1231/08/2012
Jersey's games against Cornish Pirates will form the book-ends to the 2012/13 season - appropriately enough given how much the two 'nations' have in common.
The Islanders and the Pirates may compete in an English league but woe betide anyone who accuses either side of being English.
On one side is a virtually autonomous Crown Dependency and premier holiday destination (may I introduce you to our new sponsor?!) which is the sunniest in Britain. And on the other is one of the smallest counties in the United (well, sort of) Kingdom, with its own ambitions for independence (in some quarters) which is also high up the rankings for holiday-makers, albeit just that little less sunny.
Today's fixture may pit the new boys in the Championship with the gnarled veterans of level two, but both sides will have a similar number of new faces on show.
Jersey Director of Rugby Ben Harvey embarked on some significant summer transfer activity to get his squad ready for 2012/13.
Joining the Islanders are the likes of Steve Boden from Doncaster Knights, Dave Markham (Gloucester), Richard Barrington (Hartpury College) and Rob Anderson (Rosslyn Park). Another new signing, Tom Cooper, is one of several in the Jersey camp with Cornish connections: Cooper played for the Pirates 19 times last season, including a substitute appearance in the Championship Final against London Welsh, and scrum-half Nicky Griffiths spent a season at the Mennaye in 2008/09, making 25 appearances and scoring nine tries.
Jersey captain Nathan Hannay formerly played in Cornwall for Launceston, while Harvey himself was born in Redruth and played his mini rugby in the county before heading on to greater heights. And his father Brett played for Pirates, so almost a case of divided loyalties?!
Harvey is denied the services of a number of players due to injuries, especially in the forwards, with the likes of Myles Landick, Jon Brennan, Fred Silcock, Graham Bell and Paul Rodgers still recovering, though aiming to be involved in Jersey's campaign before too long. Also absent will be summer signing Richard Haughton, who made just one appearance for the Island side before being snapped up by Perpignan who had their own injuries to contend with, and a rather larger budget to cover their needs.
Pirates are likely to see the greater number of changes from their last competitive game, with as few as four starters from the second leg against Welsh set to be in the starting XV today, albeit this number will increase when substitutes are taken into account.
The Cornishmen have lost some influential players such as prop Carl Rimmer, hooker Dave Ward (off to Harlequins) and full-back Rob Cook (Gloucester) but have recruited extensively. Visiting supporters will have their first chance to see the new players in a competitive setting at St Peter.
Both sides are likely to be searching for their optimum combinations and best form at the start of a long season. Pirates have had an extra pre-season game, and outscored Jersey against Loughborough Students (36-7 against 21-11), while Jersey kept things more respectable against Premiership opposition (21-34 against Leicester rather than 3-56 against Exeter). But the respective strength of the opponents, weather conditions and many other factors could also be mentioned - what is for certain is that the results of the pre-season skirmishes will count for nothing today as both sides strive desperately to get the new campaign off on a winning note.
News from the Jersey camp
Ben Harvey has named his side for the opening RFU Championship match against Cornish Pirates.
Led by Nathan Hannay, the starting XV includes four new faces: Richard Barrington and Steve Boden in the front row, lock Rob Anderson and wing (and former Pirate) Tom Cooper. Also in the team is Tongan forward Talite Vaoileti, a former Jersey captain who was re-signed in the summer from Rotherham Titans and will wear the number six shirt.
Jersey's bench includes another new signing, prop Sean McCarthy, who will be hoping to make his debut for the Islanders.
Jersey are defending a formidable home record at St Peter, having lost just one league game in the past three seasons, but know that maintaining the ground's Fortress reputation will be a challenge following the rise to Championship level, especially against last season's beaten finalists.
15 Glenn Bryce
14 Thomas Cooper
13 David Bishop
12 Donovan Sanders
11 Edward Dawson
10 Ross Broadfoot
9 Nicholas Griffiths
1 Richard Barrington
2 Steven Boden
3 Ben Evans
4 Nathan Hannay (Capt)
5 Robert Anderson
6 Talite Vaioleti
7 Guy Thompson
8 Nicholas Trower
16 David Felton
17 Sean McCarthy
18 David Markham
19 Eoghan Nihill
20 Brendan O'Brien
21 Michael Le Bourgeois
22 James Copsey
15. Grant Pointer
14. Tom Bedford
13. Tom Riley
12. Junior Fatialofa
11. Matt Evans
10. Kieran Hallett
9. Gavin Cattle (Capt)
1. Paul Andrew
2. Rob Elloway
3. Ben Prescott
4. Darren Barry
5. Gary Johnson
6. Kyle Marriott
7. Phil Burgess
8. Ben Maidment
16. Ryan Storer
17. Darren Semmens
18. Alan Paver
19. David Lyons
20. Tom Kessell
21. Aaron Penberthy
22. Alex Cheesman
Cornish Pirates history
The early days of rugby in West Cornwall saw Penzance and Newlyn as rival clubs who waged some feisty battles on the pitch to determine local bragging rights. Penzance, formed in 1876 and Newlyn, who started in 1894, actually stopped playing each other from 1929-32 because of public order concerns.
However the entente became rather more cordiale towards the end of the 1930s and in 1945 the clubs merged, playing their first game against Guy's Hospital on September 22nd of that year.
The 1950s was a golden era, with crowds of 5,000 or more not uncommon, and two P&N players, John Kendall Carpenter and John 'Ginger' Williams being capped for England in the 1951 Calcutta Cup.
In 1969 the legendary prop Brian'Stack' Stevens made his England debut, going on to earn 25 caps including a try in the incredible away win in New Zealand in 1973.
The Pirates (the nickname was upgraded to a proper name in 2005) have continued to have a sprinkling of internationals, although in recent years it's been a more cosmopolitan affair, including Victor Olonga (Zimbabwe), Villi Ma'asi (Tonga), Heino Senekal (Namibia) and Stan McKeen (Canada). Likely starting hooker today, Rob Elloway, was twice capped for Germany, the land of his birth, in 2009-10.
When league rugby began in 1987/88 the Pirates were in the Cornwall and Devon League, but the club had a steady run of success culminating in their arrival at level two in 2003. So far, that's as high as they have reached, although there remain great ambitions to emulate Devon neighbours Exeter and establish a Cornish presence at the top level of the English game.
The Championship this weekend
Friday - Nottingham v Leeds Carnegie
Saturday - Bedford Blues v Moseley; Plymouth Albion v Doncaster Knights
Sunday - London Scottish v Rotherham Titans; Bristol
Rugby v Newcastle Falcons
Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Pirates through the following channels:
• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's 'Sportscene' from 6- 7pm on Friday, including an interview with Ben Harvey, 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 and a special souvenir supplement, 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
Stop Press: Channel TV will be broadcasting Friday's Report Sport from JRFC featuring interviews with Bill Dempsey, Ben Harvey and Matt Banahan.
The Pirates' website is well worth a look including a preview from their perspective and lots of info including an extended history.
As well as Cornish visitors, we have a team from France in town this weekend. Rennes will be watching Saturday's match and then taking on Jersey Athletic (the team formerly known as the 2s) on Sunday at 1.30pm.
On Saturday Jersey Colts host St Benedicts at St Peter at 11am.
Enjoy your weekend's rugby