Preview to Leicester Tigers (H) 11.08.12


Next Match (yes, really!): Jersey v Leicester - will Castro play second fidel to Big Nathan?

Beware a wounded Tiger, as the old saying goes. So perhaps not the best time for Jersey to be playing the Tigers of Leicester, whose last outing was a defeat in the Aviva Premiership final.

Perhaps just as well for the Islanders that there have been two-and-a-half months for the Tigers to lick their wounds since they were turned over by Harlequins (of all teams!) in the final act of the 2011/12 season.

Leicester's return to action comes in a different theatre of dreams to their previous outing. A total of 81,779 spectators saw the 30-23 reverse against Quins at Twickenham, while even the recent ground improvements at St Peter won't enable JRFC to match that figure.

It's been a summer of anticipation for players and supporters in Jersey, ever since the words 'Leicester' and 'Tigers' were posted on the board on the Airport Road marked 'Next Match'. And still there's a sense of disbelief, especially from long-standing members. In 2005 Jersey finally gained promotion from London Three South-West at the 10th attempt, and since then opponents like Old Wimbledonians, Weybridge Vandals and Farnham have been left behind.

Four more promotions have followed since, making a total of five in eight seasons to see Jersey just a rung behind Tigers, Quins and their Premiership pals, and in position to secure a plum pre-season tie which has now about to kick off.

News from the Jersey camp
It's fair to say that after a punishing 10-week period of pre-season training that began when everyone else was having street parties, drinking Pimm's, waving Union Jacks and toasting HM Queen, not to mention an extra-long weekend, the Jersey players will be champing at the bit. Some may even resemble over-excited dressage horses about to dance round Greenwich Park to the tunes of Sir Phillip Collins and Sir Edward Elgar.

The step-up to the RFU Championship has meant an extensive summer shopping spree from Director of Rugby Ben Harvey, who has signed up nine new players, one returnee and a pair of natives upgraded to full-time status.

The star name is the England 'A' and Sevens international Richard Haughton on the wing from London Wasps, joined in the backs by former Cornish Pirates' centre Tom Cooper and scrum-half Joel Dudley.

However much of the added beef comes in the forwards, a reflection of both the increased physicality of the Championship, but also the injuries that affected the Jersey pack last season. Props Myles Landick and Jon Brennan, second rows Paul Rodgers and Toby Clyde-Smith, flanker Graham Bell and Number 8 Nick Trower were all hors de combat by the time the season finished, although convalescence has been going well.

Ben Harvey announced a 24-man squad for the game, captained by Nathan Hannay, although he stressed that not too much should be read into who starts and who is brought on - all the subs are likely to be introduced.

In the mix for the Jersey pack are new signings Richard Barrington and Sean McCarthy (both props), hooker Steve Boden, and second rows Dave Markham and Rob Anderson. New Number 8 Fred Silcock misses out as he recovers from ankle surgery, but Trower takes a place on the bench after recovering from injury sustained in the final league game of 2011/12. The starting number 8 is former captain Talite 'Vee' Vaoileti, back in Jersey after a two-year stint in Yorkshire, while Charlie Clyde-Smith starts at number six in his first game since becoming a full-time member of the squad.

Competition for places will be intense, ensuring that those wearing a red shirt will be suitably keen to impress. After Tigers, and a team-bonding-boot-camp affair in France, the Jersey side will tackle Loughborough Students on Saturday August 25th (k-o 3pm) in the final action before the Championship starts with Jersey v Cornish Pirates on September 1st.

Jersey Team 1-15 ( # denotes full international )
Richard Barrington
Steve Boden
Ben Evans #
Nathan Hannay (Capt)
Rob Anderson
Charlie Clyde-Smith
Guy Thompson
Talite Vaoileti #
Nicky Griffiths
Ross Broadfoot
Ed Dawson
Donovan Sanders
Mike Le Bourgeois
Richard Haughton
Glenn Bryce

Sean McCarthy
Dave Felton
James Gethings
Dave Markham
Eoghan Nihill
Nick Trower
Joel Dudley
Tom Cooper
Dai Bishop
James Copsey

Tigers Talk
As for Jersey, Saturday's game is a first chance for competitive 15-a-side action for Tigers this season.

Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill will be denied the services of members of the elite England squad. The likes of Toby Flood, Dan Cole, Louis Deacon, Geoff Parling, Manu Tuilagi and Tom Croft have been at an international training camp this week, although they are expected to fly over on Friday to support their clubmates. One person not making the trip is scrum-half Ben Youngs as he continues his recovery from a shoulder injury.

While Tigers' fans may grumble at losing players to the national cause, and many members of the Jersey fan-base will be disappointed not to see some of the big names, it should be pointed out that the whole business is part of a complex agreement between club and country, and that some of the England players whose season finished in South Africa in late June had begun their World Cup preparations more than 11 months previously.

And it's not as if 'Cockers' is short of quality options in selecting a squad of 27 players. This includes talented youngsters like fly-half George Ford (19) and loose-head prop Fraser Balmain (20), plus internationals such as England's George Chuter, the Fijian Vereniki Goneva, ex-All Black Scott Hamilton and venerable former Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy (72 Irish and 2 Lions caps). Captain for the day is Argentine-born Martin Castrogiovanni, capped 88 times for Italy, although Jersey fans will be denied the chance to see him pack down against the almost-as-hirsute Myles Landick as the latter continues to recover from knee surgery.

Leicester's starting back row comprises the twice-capped England man (and Heineken Cup kicking hero) Jordan Crane, Brett Deacon, who is brother of Louis and recently returned from a stint at Gloucester, and new signing Richard Thorpe, whose transfer from London Irish was confirmed on Thursday.

The Tigers' bench includes 31-year-old South African back-five forward Wessel Jooste, who has been training with the squad and may have the chance to earn himself a longer-term opportunity after eight seasons with French Top 14 club CS Bourgoin-Jallieu.

New signings on show for Leicester include:

* Rob Andrew, South African lock, signed from Pau in France (and not to be confused with the English fly-half and RFU 'grand fromage'
* The aforementioned Veroniki Goneva, from Tarbes in France
* Matt Cornwell, centre/ fly-half, returning to Leicester after a spell in Italy
* Adam Thompstone, wing, from London Irish

tigers logo

Leicester Tigers Team 1-15
Fraser Balmain
Rob Hawkins
Martin Castrogiovanni (Capt) #
Rob Andrew
Joe Cain
Brett Deacon
Richard Thorpe
Jordan Crane #
Mickey Young
George Ford
Vereniki Goneva #
Andrew Symons
Matt Smith
Scott Hamilton #
Niall Morris

George Chuter #
Keiran Brookes
Jonny Harris
Ryan Bower
Harry Wells
Wessel Jooste
Julian Salvi
Patrick Phibbs
Matt Cornwell
Alex Lewington
Geordan Murphy #
Adam Thompstone

Leicester Tigers: selected milestones - a (very) full list is available on the club's website
1880: Leicester Football Club was founded, acquiring the nickname 'Tigers' by 1885, although it is not known whether this related to the team's striped shirts or a connection with the local regiment who were nicknamed the Tigers after serving in India.
1897: the club claim their first piece of silverware, the Midlands Counties Cup.
1930s: the BBC makes the first radio broadcast from Welford Road for the game against Waterloo; and Russian Prince Alexander Obolensky makes his debut.
1978: Leicester play in their first Twickenham final, losing 3-6 to Gloucester in the John Player Cup, but then win the trophy for the next three years.
1984: Seven Leicester players are in the England team who beat Ireland 12-9 at Twickenham.
1988: Tigers take the inaugural Courage League title, the first of nine national titles.
2001: success in the Heineken Cup Final over Stade Français, repeated 12 months later with victory over Munster.
2003: Leicester and England captain Martin Johnson lifts the Rugby World Cup.

Match Officials
Premiership ref Greg Macdonald takes charge, assisted by Roy Maybank and Andrew Pearce. Andrew is the father of Luke Pearce, one of the up-and-coming young refs on the circuit and the man who refereed the 2009 Siam Cup (that's the annual Jersey v Guernsey clash for those who didn't know) at the tender age of 21.

Ticket News
Tickets to the game priced £15 for adults remain on sale from the JEP offices at Five Oaks and Red Properties in St Helier until 5pm on Friday, and are also available at the rugby club from 9am to 1pm and 5pm to 7pm on Friday, or on the gate, subject to availability, from 12noon tomorrow. Juniors aged 16 and under will be admitted free - proof-of-age will be required

Following the game
There's no substitute for being there, and the game even kicks off at 4pm so there's time to get to the beach first (high tide's at 1). But it's possible to keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Tigers through the following channels:
• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's Sportscene from 6- 7pm on Friday, and live commentary on Saturday afternoon (available online and on your transistor-wireless device)
• Preview in Friday's JEP and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter
• Match report on Channel 103 soon after the final whistle on Saturday
• Highlights on Channel TV at 6.15pm on Monday, and online, and on BBC TV Channel Islands at 6.30pm on Monday

Elsewhere in the Championship
This weekend's other games (Saturday unless stated):

* Cardiff v London Scottish
* Plymouth v Taunton
* Bedwas v Moseley
* Bedford v Saracens (Fri)
* Hull v Rotherham
* Newcastle (split squad) v Doncaster
* Newcastle (s-s) v Leeds
* London Irish v Nottingham (Fri)
* Cornish Pirates v Loughborough

Bristol have just completed a pre-season tour to France and aren't in action this weekend.

And finally
A new era for JRFC begins this season with the club sponsored by Jersey Tourism and Locate Jersey, who will be using their partnership with the club - through the site - to promote the Island's many benefits to businesses, entrepreneurs and visitors.

Talking of sponsors, today's match sponsor is Ashburton. The company has been a loyal supporter of JRFC for many years and their support has been instrumental in ensuring plans to host the Tigers have been realised.

And talking of visitors, a warm welcome to the many Tigers' supporters who have made the journey over. We hope you've enjoyed the weather - it's been exactly the same since Easter you know - and that as ruffty-tuffty rugger types you didn't feel too compromised going to see a parade of flowers soon after arriving in Jersey.

And equally, we look forward to welcoming Jersey supporters who have already signed up in record numbers for membership and/ or season tickets. We hope you approve of the improvements to the ground and facilities that have been made over the summer, and that the passionate home support will once again be a big factor at 'Fortress St Peter'. The defence of the fortress will be a particularly tough task this weekend, but let's hope it's tackled with aplomb and sets up a great season.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby.
Tom Innes

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