Preview and squad for Leinster 'A' 06.12.1404/12/2014
Reds look to banish the blues on Black
Jersey will be looking to bounce back from their most disappointing display of the season when British & Irish Cup holders Leinster 'A' visit the Island this weekend.
Last weekend's B&I clash with Plymouth Albion was the first-ever night match at St Peter, but the Islanders underperformed, particularly in the first quarter when a 0-20 deficit put the game beyond reach (the final score was 14-23).
Now, back to the standard Saturday afternoon kick-off, Jersey face the huge challenge of the team who have won the B&I for both of the last two seasons. The two sides faced each other on back-to-back weekends in December 2012; the Irish province, featuring players such as Jack McGrath and Rhys Ruddock - now members of the Ireland side - won both, following up a narrow 12-16 triumph at St Peter with a 44-15 dismantling of Jersey on their Donnybrook home patch in Dublin. [click scorelines for match reports]
Leinster know that a win is virtually certain to seal victory in
pool 5 and qualification to the knock-out stages of the competition
for the fifth successive season, but Jersey still harbour hopes of
progression themselves, with a win offering the chance to cut the
current leaders' margin - currently five match points.
Carmarthen Quins and Plymouth, the other teams in pool 5, meet at Brickfields and still have theoretical chances of qualification ahead of the final round of matches, which will see Leinster 'A' entertain Albion and Carmarthen - who have been represented by a Scarlets' 'A' selection - playing host to Jersey at the ground of local rivals Llandovery.
Jersey Head Coach Harvey Biljon has adjusted key units of his starting XV for this weekend's game, with a total of six changes. In the backs, centres Drew Locke and Lewis Robling return at the expense of David Bishop and Tobias Hoskins.
In the pack, hooker Martin Garcia-Veiga and skipper Alex Rae come into the front and second rows respectively, replacing Gareth Harris and Dave Markham, who both switch to the bench. The other changes are the two flankers, with Ryan Hodson and Nick Haining restored to the line-up in place of Joe Buckle and Mick Noone.
The host club will be putting on a special theme for the day, with Irish roast dinners available in the new marquee, local band Fiddler's Green, a Gaelic Football demonstration at half-time and Guinness on special offer - 'Black Saturday', as it's been dubbed. Admission for non-members is available for the reduced rate of £10 (normally £15) for Irish passport holders, members of the Jersey Irish Society or anyone with an Irish rugby shirt.
Jersey squad v Leinster 'A' - British & Irish Cup, Pool 5, Saturday December 6th, St Peter - k-o 3pm - [see the squad in video form HERE]
Alex Rae (capt)
Although he now has a humungous auburn beard, Jersey fans should recognise former player Sean McCarthy, who left to join Leinster in the summer of 2014. The prop (and also a hooker for Leinster this season), who will be 24 this coming Friday, was a virtually ever-present member of the Jersey squad during two seasons on the Island, albeit jostling for the starting berth at loose-head in his first season with Richard Barrington, now at Saracens. He made a total of 55 competitive appearances for Jersey in the Championship, B&I and Siam Cups.
Leinster 'A' B&I Cup history
Leinster 'A' have competed in all six versions of the British & Irish Cup since its inception in 2009/10.
Although they have had a very strong record throughout - a total of just seven losses from 39 games - it took Leinster a while to register tangible success. In the first season they were squeezed out of pool qualification by a point by Worcester, and progression to the knock-out stage the following season was ended with a 50-15 thumping at Bedford. A year later, and Leinster reached the semi-final, but were beaten 29-36 at the RDS in Dublin by Munster 'A'.
In 2012/13 Leinster qualified through a pool including Jersey (games as described above), Pontypridd and Leeds Carnegie. They then achieved a stunning trio of narrow away wins in the knock-out stages: 26-30 at Bristol, 15-17 in Limerick against Munster, and finally 17-18 at Kingston Park against Newcastle to lift the trophy.
Last season Leinster won all six of their group matches and then walloped Munster 47-15 in the quarter-final. The semi-final at Sardis Road, Pontypridd was a far closer affair: the Irishmen and Ponty could not be separated, even after extra time (22-22), but the away side were deemed the winners on try-count, and Leinster then went on to easily defeat Leeds Carnegie by 44-17 in the final, which was played at Donnybrook in Dublin. Jersey's Jonny Bentley was among the Leeds' side in that game.
In this season's B&I, Leinster had a wobbly start, only just beating Plymouth Albion at Brickfield by 24-31 in their opening fixture. Jersey visited Donnybrook the following Friday and were beaten 26-6 in wet and windy conditions. Scrum-half Luke McGrath scored two tries while his half-back partner Ross Byrne kicked 13 points and Cathal Marsh added another penalty. Jersey managed just two penalties: a kick apiece by Bentley and Lewis Robling.
Most recently Leinster 'A' had a pair of games against the 'Carmarthen Scarlets'. The Welsh edged the first game 26-24 thanks to a late try by Ben Leung, converted by Fraser Climo, but last weekend at Donnybrook the home side gained revenge in fine style, winning 67-12.
Leinster 'A' are coached by the province's Academy Manager Girvan Dempsey, the former Irish full-back who retired in 2010 after a career that included 82 national caps and 175 appearances for his province. The 39-year-old became an Elite Player Development Officer for Leinster after hanging up his boots and moved to his current role in 2012, although he was not in charge of the 'A' team in 2012/13.
History of Leinster Rugby
The first Interprovincial matches between Leinster, Ulster and Munster were held in 1875, with Connacht joining the fold in 1885.
Before the days of professional rugby union, there was a greater emphasis on Irish club rugby as opposed to the provincial game. During these times the provincial sides were purely representative sides and games were far less frequent. When rugby union was declared 'open' in 1995, the four teams became professional teams run by the Irish Rugby Football Union.
The Heineken Cup began in 1995 and Leinster reached the semi-finals, one of six seasons in which the province reached the knock-out stages in the first 13 seasons of the European competition, without ever making the final.
Finally in 2008/09 Leinster beat Harlequins in the 'Bloodgate' quarter-final match, and then Munster to reach their first final, which they won against Leicester 19-16. The following season saw a semi-final loss against Toulouse, but Leinster then won two more European crowns with back-to-back successes in 2011 and 2012, overcoming Northampton and Ulster in the finals. Only Toulouse (four) have won more Heineken titles. During the last two seasons, Leinster suffered a rare pool elimination in 2012/13 and then last season were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by eventual winners Toulon.
Leinster have won the Rabo Direct Pro 12 (Celtic) League, formerly sponsored by Magners, on four occasions: 2002, 2008, 2013 and most recently last season, beating Glasgow Warriors in what was Brian O'Driscoll's final appearance. 'BOD' lifted the trophy although injury forced him from the field during the first 10 minutes.
The British & Irish Cup this weekend
Four unbeaten sides top pools 1 to 4 and know that wins this weekend will seal their qualification as group winners with a round to spare. And if Bristol, Worcester, Rotherham and Doncaster do win, they are likely to get home ties with only Leinster able to stop them. See full preview HERE
There is another game on Saturday with Jersey Buccaneers hosting Guernsey 2nds at 12noon. The venue depends on availability of changing rooms and will either be at St Peter or Les Quennevais - keep an eye on Twitter. And on Sunday Jersey Ladies travel to Bournemouth to take on Old Oakmedians.
An Irish rugby legend is due to be in the house this weekend - Phil Orr is among the officials supporting the Irish visitors. The 63-year-old prop won 58 caps for his country (the fourth most-capped Irish player of the amateur era after Gibson, McBride and Slattery) plus one for the Lions in New Zealand in 1977, when he packed down alongside Bobby Windsor and Graham Price. He also played in the infamous 'mud-bath' game in Wellington (pictured below, he was the Lions player in focus!).
Orr's started and ended his 12-season international career in high-octane encounters. In 1976 he was among an Irish side captained by Mike Gibson and including the likes of Moss Keane, Wille Duggan and Barry McGann, facing a French team featuring two of the great pack trios (they sound best if you imagine Bill Mclaren reeling off their names) - Cholley, Paco and Paperemborde in the front row, and Rives, Skrela and Bastiat at the back of the scrum. And his last match was the quarter-final of the inaugural World Cup in 1987, when the team skippered by Donal Lenihan had to yield to an Aussie team featuring (a.o.) Campese, Lynagh and Poidevin.
Phil emerges from the shower
Since retiring, Orr's attention has been focused more firmly on
Old Wesley, the club based at the Donnybrook ground who he has
represented as player and administrator for some 40 years. It's
great to be welcoming him to St Peter.
Enjoy your weekend's rugby!