Spotlight on Jersey Reds’ boss Biljon
HARVEY BILJON’S stock appears to have risen in recent weeks, with two high-profile individuals name-dropping the Jersey boss when analysing top-flight coaching opportunities.
Speaking to The Rugby Paper, both RFU director of professional rugby Nigel Melville and former Cornish Pirates director of rugby Ian Davies have highlighted Biljon’s potential.
Last month Davies, who worked alongside Biljon at Pirates, mentioned his former colleague while voicing his disgust at coaching appointments at Premiership clubs. And on Saturday Melville spoke of the Jersey Reds boss while discussing the same topic.
Since joining from Pirates in January 2014, the former Wasps scrum-half has enjoyed an excellent spell with the Reds, turning the Championship strugglers into a team capable of challenging even the very best second-tier sides. During his tenure Jersey have shocked the likes of London Irish and Worcester Warriors and finished runners-up in last season’s British & Irish Cup. When you consider those statistics, it’s little surprise to discover that some feel Biljon deserves a chance in the top-flight.
However Premiership clubs seem to be favouring overseas appointments. Veterans Alan Solomons, a 67-year-old South African, and 71-year-old Aussie Alan Gaffney were appointed to take over the reins at Worcester and Northampton respectively. And while Gaffney is only in charge until the end of the season, he will be replaced by New Zealander Chris Boyd for the start of the next campaign.
Irritated by recent appointments, Davies believes the country’s top clubs should be looking to home-grown coaches when recruiting.
‘It’s very disheartening to see guys like this getting these top jobs,’ said Davies.
‘In the Championship you’ve got Mike Rayer at Bedford, who’s been doing great work for over a decade; Steve Hill’s done a fantastic job at Richmond and been in the game a long time; Harvey Biljon at Jersey is excellent.
‘I know the RFU can’t force people into jobs, but it’s time they and Premiership Rugby got together and ended this farce. What’s the purpose of the Championship or the so-called coaching pathway if clubs won’t give these guys a chance?’
And now Melville, too, has thrown his weight behind Davies’ claims – again citing Biljon as a coach who deserves a chance with a top-flight club.
‘We’ve been good at developing our own players, but there are good coaches out there who’ve been in the English system a while and it would be great to think that in future people had more confidence in our coaching and gave people chances.
‘Harvey Biljon has done a really good job as a coach at Cornish Pirates and now as [head coach] at Jersey, so when does his opportunity come? Likewise, the two guys at Cornish Pirates now, Alan Paver and Gavin Cattle – who will give them a chance?
‘Our top clubs should be looking at these guys because it’s not easy in the Championship and they’re all people who are really learning their trades.’
Although ‘flattered’ by the comments, Biljon, who signed a new four-year contract with the Islanders last January, says his focus remains on developing Jersey.
‘It is flattering to hear that decision makers in the game know who Jersey Reds are and what we’re doing,’ he said. ‘We are producing players who are going on to the Premiership and international rugby.’
He added: ‘For me personally it’s great to get recognition, especially when you’re unaware of it. We just have to continue to work hard and develop rugby players.’