Preview to Doncaster (A) 17.1.1516/01/2015
New signing 'Fish' in at deep end for potential
'Clash of the Tongans'
New signing Samisoni Fisilau has been handed his first start for Jersey in this weekend's away match against Doncaster at Castle Park.
The Tongan international, nicknamed Fish, has been named at scrum-half in the Islanders' starting XV, and will play alongside Jonny Bentley, who featured as a late replacement in last weekend's narrow defeat to Bristol.
Jersey produced an impressive performance against the unbeaten league leaders on the manicured greensward of St Peter, and led 17-15 with just seven minutes to play. Bristol snatched the lead when Marco Mama scored from a rolling maul, but the result was not secured until Nicky Robinson's try in the final play completed a somewhat fortunate 17-27 win for Bristol and robbed Jersey of a consolation point.
Jersey have now lost eight games in succession - five league and three cup - and will play a side also in poor form: Doncaster have lost seven Championship matches in succession and are currently 11th, one place and two points behind Jersey. Both sides are among a clutch in the bottom half of the table who could be vulnerable should Plymouth Albion manage to back up Saturday's home win over Moseley, their first in the league in 17 attempts.
In addition to Biljon's half-back changes, which see Aaron Penberthy drop to the bench and the unlucky Joel Dudley drop out of the squad altogether, the back division sees just one other change in personnel, plus a positional switch. Mark McCrea returns on the wing, which means Drew Locke moves to outside centre in place of David Bishop.
Jersey's starting pack would have been the same unit as took on Bristol, but skipper Alex Rae, who this week confirmed a new two-year deal with JRFC, failed a fitness test following injury against Bristol. Mick Noone comes in at blindside flanker and his place among the forward replacements is taken by 'PK' Kaho.
The Tongan Latu Makaafi is likely to be in the Doncaster back row. Latu was one of the first professional players signed by Jersey in 2006 - he played in London Two South (level six) for Jersey for two seasons, and returned to the Island for a second stint in at Championship level 2013/14 before returning to Yorkshire, where his CV also includes time with Rotherham, Bradford & Bingley, Hull and Wharfedale.
In fact Tonga could be widely represented in the fixture; this
week the Knights signed eight-times capped fly-half Latiume Fosita,
who played alongside Jersey's Fisilau in Pacific Nations Cup
matches against Fiji and Samoa last June. Also in the Doncaster 1st
XV squad and in contention for this weekend's match is scrum-half
Tomasi Palu, who played in the 2011 World Cup and won the most
recent of his 11 caps against Scotland last November.The three
half-backs are among those competing for places in the Tongan squad
at next year's World Cup, where the Pacific Island side will take
on Argentina, Georgia and Namibia. Oh, and the holders New
Jersey squad v Doncaster Knights 'A' - Greene King IPA Championship, Saturday January 17th, Castle Park - k-o 2.30pm
Ryan Hodson (capt)
The two sides met twice in the RFU Championship in 2012/13. In late November Knights won 22-17 on home soil; the second encounter was a pivotal one which was likely to have a major bearing on the relegation battle that season. Jersey won 13-10 and a few days later Doncaster's relegation - the first in the club's history since leagues began - was confirmed.
In September this year, after the Knights had returned to the Championship after winning promotion back from National One at the first attemmpt, Jersey held a narrow 10-8 lead at the break, thanks to a Tommy Bell try. The lead was extended to 17-8 within three minutes but Doncaster stormed back and eventually won 17-23.
Click on results above for match reports
Doncaster - a potted history
Back in the day: the club had various homes during the first 50 years of its existence, and then spent around 30 years sharing a home with the Doncaster Cricket Club before moving to the site of their present home in the 1950s - the now very well-appointed rugby ground and conference facility Castle Park.
Famous sons: Director of Rugby Clive Griffiths was an accomplished full-back in his day, but his way into the Welsh team was blocked by the great JPR Williams. Griffiths earned one cap, replacing the great man mid-way through a Five Nations win over England in 1979
Jersey connection: he'd like to have been included in the category above, but Jersey Forwards Coach Steve Boden made around 200 appearances for the club until he moved to Jersey in summer 2012, and scored 18 tries for Knights, including 10 in 2007/08. Former Jersey full-back Glenn Bryce spent last season at Castle Park, but has since left the club and returned to his native Scotland where he is playing for Heriot's FP.
Silverware: The Yorkshire Shield in 1979, and of course National One in April 2014
League History: Doncaster made a meteoric rise up the English rugby pyramid after leagues were introduced in 1987. Starting in Yorkshire Division Two (Level 10), by 2005 they had reached Level Two, where they spent eight seasons until relegation in 2013
The RFU Championship this weekend
After 'Synchronised Saturday' last weekend, when all six games were played, it's back to the usual fixture mixture.
Friday's game see London Scottish host the Pirates, while on Saturday Bedford travel to Rotherham and Worcester make the short journey to Moseley. On Sunday it's Bristol versus Yorkshire Carnegie, while Plymouth Albion will try and repeat their winning effort of last weekend in Nottingham - the first game for the Green and Whites since moving from Meadow Lane to their Lady Bay training facility.
For full preview see HERE
After winter hibernation, Jersey Athletic are back in action with a home game against Henley Bulls. The match kicks off at 2pm at St Peter.
Enjoy your weekend's rugby!