Biljon plots global shock in Russia
HARVEY BILJON wants his players to stun the world of rugby later this month when Jersey Reds take on Russia’s national side in Moscow.
The Championship club confirmed arguably their most high-profile pre-season fixture in history on Friday, following talks between St Peter officials and Russia’s head coach Lyn Jones – the father of new Reds scrum-half Luc.
A 28-strong squad will travel to the Russian capital on Saturday 24 August in preparation for the tussle with the Bears at Slava Stadium on 27 August – and Jersey’s director of rugby is plotting a head-turning, global upset.
Russia will play in the opening game of the 2019 World Cup on 20 September, against hosts Japan, before meeting fellow Pool A contenders Samoa, Ireland and Scotland.
‘It’s an absolutely sensational opportunity,’ said Biljon. ‘It’s fantastic for us as an Island and fantastic for us as coaches and players.
‘The fact that Jersey is being spoken about in the same breath as a team going to the World Cup ... it’s brilliant.
‘Luc Jones’ dad used to coach London Welsh and a couple of other teams so our paths have crossed as coaches over the years. When Lyn phoned to ask if we’d be interested I said straight away, “absolutely”.
‘He feels it will be a really tough game for his squad – something they need – and it’s going to be a pretty serious fixture. They have a game against Italy coming up this weekend [Saturday] to warm up before they play us and all of their players are going to be fighting for a place at the World Cup.’
With a smile, Biljon added: ‘We can almost call this an international fixture for Jersey, so if we beat Russia could that mean we could have gone to the World Cup? That’s very tongue in cheek, obviously, but the flip side of that is our players will be watching the World Cup in a few months’ time knowing they’ve played, maybe beaten, a team in that competition. Isn’t that fantastic?’
The fixture – sanctioned by the RFU and World Rugby – provides Jersey’s players and staff with not only a career opportunity but an invaluable life experience as well. It is an opportunity not to be missed, which is why there is sadness that not every player will travel.
‘We’ll take a squad of 28 players and the management team and staff,’ Biljon explained.
‘We’d love to take everyone but we’ve had a fair few bumps and bruises. Whether we get all 28 on the field I don’t know, but we will endeavour to give them all that opportunity. It will be some experience for everyone involved.
‘I do have experience of Russia from when I took the England Counties team there, but that was quite a few years ago now. I have a little bit of an insight but rugby in Russia is miles apart from what it was eight or nine years ago. They have made huge strides.
‘The opportunities with rugby ... you’re always making friends all over the world so you never know what comes from this. For now though a huge focus is on getting ourselves prepared for the next three weeks of fixtures, because they’re all going to be pretty tough.’
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