Unchanged squad to take on Bristol29/01/2016
An unchanged Jersey squad will head to Bristol this weekend to face the biggest challenge of their season to date.
Bristol are a team the Islanders have never beaten - Andy Robinson's side are currently top of the Greene King IPA Championship and favourites for promotion, while Jersey are four places and 20 league points behind their opponents.
The visitors will travel to Ashton Gate intending to keep up recent good form that saw successive wins over the last two weekends to achieve qualification to the knock-out stages of the British & Irish Cup for the first time.
The squad to play Bristol is identical to the line-up which defeated Doncaster Knights 19-24 last weekend to clinch the quarter-final berth in the B&I.
In the backs, centre Lewis Robling is injured and will miss his first league game since joining Jersey 18 months ago. Former Bristol players Mark Cooke and Fautua Otto are paired in midfield, the latter having scored the winning try in the dying moments against Doncaster.
After setting up Otto's try with his first touch in a Jersey shirt, Rory Jennings retains his place on the bench and is set to make his first league appearance since coming to the Island on loan from Bath earlier this month.
In the forwards, Pierce Phillips and Will Rowlands are again paired at second row, with Phillips skippering the side for the first time in a Championship match and club captain Alex Rae primed to make an impact from the bench.
Three players - Phillips, flanker Gary Graham and hooker Nick Selway - are part of the starting XV after being announced this week as the latest squad members to sign new deals for the 2016/17 season.
The match will provide a real test for Jersey, not least in defence. The Islanders' average of 19 points conceded per game is currently the lowest in the league, but will be up against a Bristol side who are the Championship's top-scorers, scoring 33 points per match on average.
In the clubs' first meeting this seaon, at St Peter in September, two Tom Varndell tries early in the game set Bristol on course to victory by an eventual scoreline of 7-24. Jersey's only previous trip to Ashton Gate was in April last year, where the scores where level mid-way through the second half but the home side scored two tries in the final quarter and Jersey had to be content with a bonus point in losing 40-29. The closest scoreline across the seven previous meetings was at St Peter in March 2013, when Jersey claims for a late try were denied and Bristol won 23-29.
Following this weekend's trip to the West of England, Jersey's next match will be at St Peter when Moseley are the visitors on Saturday February 6th.
Jersey v Bristol (A) - GKIPA Championship, Sunday January 31st, Ashton Gate, 3pm
Pierce Phillips (capt)
Jersey's Rich Lane and Tom Varndell of Bristol, pictured by Steve Lund