Preview & squad for Bedford (H) 14.2.15


With a debut on the wing for recent signing Fautua Otto, and a fresh face at fly-half, Jersey will field a new-look backline For this Saturday's Greene King IPA Championship clash with Bedford Blues.

Otto comes into the starting XV at left wing, while Lewis Robling will make his first start at fly-half for the Islanders, having been virtually ever-present at inside centre since joining Jersey last summer. The changes also see Mark McCrea, a try-scorer in his last two outings, move from wing to the centre berth formerly occupied by Robling. Aaron Penberthy retains the full-back spot, while Jonny Bentley switches to the bench.

Head Coach Harvey Biljon has also made three changes to his starting pack. Martin Garcia-Veiga is back at hooker, swapping places with Joe Buckle, who will be among the replacements. Pierce Phillips is back at second row in place of the injured Dave Markham, while Paula Kaho gets the nod at number 8 ahead of Michael Noone, another player on the bench. New signing Gary Graham is another waiting to make an impact in what would be his home debut.

With the exception of a below-par display at Cornish Pirates on the third day of the New Year, Jersey have had an encouraging 2015 to date. The Islanders gave former leaders Bristol a scare at St Peter and have then gone undefeated for three matches, with wins against Doncaster and Nottingham plus last Saturday's 20-20 draw at Rotherham.

Bedford hosted Jersey at the start of October and the Blues won a fluctuating game by 25-20, gaining revenge for their defeat at Goldington Road at the end of April when the visitors sealed their Championship survival thanks to a 31-41 triumph (pictured below by Sue Trower). [You know the drill, click on the scorelines for match reports]

Bedford 0414

2013/14 saw a double for Jersey, who also won 26-14 at St Peter in September, but in the previous season the boot was on the other foot: on their way to a play-off spot Bedford won 19-29 at St Peter and 38-21 on home soil.

The two sides are closely-matched in this season's Championship: the Blues currently have 31 points, three ahead of their hosts. Jersey supporters will be watching the Bedford team announcement with interest to see whether former players Michael Le Bourgeois, a native of the Island, and Charlie Clare will feature against their old club.

Jersey squad v Bedford 'H' - Greene King IPA Championship, Saturday February 14th, St Peter - k-o 3pm

Backs (15-9)
Aaron Penberthy
Mark Foster
Drew Locke
Mark McCrea
Fautua Otto
Lewis Robling
Samisoni Fisilau

Forwards (1-8)
Sam Lockwood
Martin Garcia-Veiga
Harry Williams
Nick Campbell
Pierce Phillips
Alex Rae (capt)
Ryan Hodson
Paula Kaho

Ignacio Lancuba
Joe Buckle
Danny Herriott
Gary Graham
Michael Noone
Ryan Glynn
Jonny Bentley

Match-day at St Peter

Bedford have brought some of the largest contingents of away supporters to the Island over the last two seasons, and although they've landed a mid-winter slot for the fixture this time after two September dates, good numbers are still expected.

It's also the second round of the RBS 6 Nations this weekend. The England v Italy game will be recorded and shown in the Clubhouse after the final whistle in the Jersey v Bedford match. We won't be giving updates over the PA, should anyone wish to avoid the result.

Those wanting to watch Ireland v France (k-o 5pm) should head for the Pavilion, where earlier in the day we'll also be showing the Championship match on Sky between leaders Worcester and Rotherham (k-o 12.35pm).

The match-day forecast looks good too - latest (for Saturday) from Jersey Met (at time of writing i.e. dawn on Friday): "Mainly fair with sunny periods. Isolated showers, most likely for the start of the morning. Wind decreasing to F4 (NW) by afternoon, when the maximum temperature will be 10c."

Bedford - a potted history

A few years after their separate foundations, Bedford Rovers and Bedford Swifts joined forces in 1886 to form Bedford RUFC. Close links between the club and two local schools - Bedford and Bedford Modern - led to the choice of a dark and light blue strip, reflecting further links between the schools and the Oxbridge universities. This colour scheme exists to this day in the team kit and logo.

Bedford Blues

The club played at Goldington Road virtually from the outset, hosting some of the leading teams of the era. In 1893/94 they lost just one game out of 29 and in 1905 hosted the All Blacks - a 41-0 defeat was little disgrace given that the visitors lost just one match of a lengthy tour.

Fast-forwarding a few years, and Bedford were a pre-eminent name in English rugby in the 1960s thanks to the likes of national captains Budge Rogers and David Perry. They won the Sunday Telegraph English-Welsh Rugby Table in 1969/70 and were led by Rogers to an 18-12 victory over Rosslyn Park in the 1975 John Player Cup Final at Twickenham.

When the league era began in 1987 Bedford were at level two, and the club has spent 21 of the ensuing 27 seasons at this level. The exceptions were a one-season foray into Courage Division One in 1989/90, two years below stairs at level three in the mid-90s, and then two years back at the top-flight, then named the Allied Dunbar Premiership, from 1998-2000.

There were two eventful promotion play-offs with Rotherham during this time, the first won on try count-back after a 38-38 draw and the second lost 34-40 and resulting in relegation.

Like many clubs, Bedford have weathered the peaks and troughs of the professional era. In 1996/97 boxing promoter Frank Warren and the company Sports Network invested in the club and helped secure some major signings and promotion to the Premiership. However the club's sale in 1999 to Jefferson Lloyd International was financially catastrophic and at one stage looked likely to involve another sale and the club moving out of Bedford.

Following intervention by the RFU in October 1999 a consortium of Bedford businessmen headed by David Ledsom, Geoff Irvine and David Gunner with assistance from Bedford Borough Council and other professional people, the transfer of the club to Bedford Blues Ltd. was organised.

Several thousand supporters and businesses in the town bought shares and the club has held its own in the tough environment of Championship rugby.

Director of Rugby Mike Rayer, 49, is in his tenth season in charge - on the playing side - at Goldington Road. He won 21 caps at full-back for Wales in the early 90s, scoring four tries including a brace as a replacement against Scotland in 1994, and played two seasons for Bedford between 1996 and 1998.

Blues are now in their 15th straight season at level two, making them the 'Fathers' of this league (Plymouth Albion have the next-longest tenure - two seasons shorter).

The Greene King IPA Championship this weekend

There's just one other Saturday game as some clubs move their fixtures away from the 6 Nations - Worcester host Rotherham in a game that kicks off at 12.35pm and will be shown live by Sky.

On Sunday Plymouth will look to restart their recent revival at home to London Scottish, while Doncaster and Moseley look to at least maintain their breathing space ahead of Albion, with tough away trips to the Mennaye Field and Ashton Gate respectively. The final match is Yorkshire Carnegie v Nottingham.

The full Championship preview to round 15 is HERE

And Finally

Happy Birthday to England's oldest-surviving international, who reached three figures this week and has rightly attracted some headlines to mark his centenary.

Harry Walker

Quite a character, by the look of it, and hopefully, while not an unqualified admirer of the RFU he's looking forward to his day out at Twickenham for the Calcutta Cup match in a few weeks time. You can read more about Harry HERE and hear from the man himself HERE

Enjoy your weekend's rugby!
Tom Innes

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