Reds face crucial encounter in Cornwall03/03/2017
With their Pirate hosts toasting the patron saint of tin miners on Cornwall's national day, Jersey Reds know they will have to dig deep for victory at the Mennaye Field on Sunday.
The St Piran's Day festivities should ensure a lively atmosphere for a vital encounter between clubs who are becoming old rivals. Just four points separate the sides in fifth and sixth places in the Greene King IPA Championship, with the lower-ranked Reds knowing they risk losing touch in the race for the end-of-season play-off spots unless they can get a win that would be their first in six visits to Penzance.
The two sides are in red-hot form, with the Reds having won five games since they were last defeated on New Year's Day. Cornish Pirates' winning run stretches back even further, encompassing seven straight successes dating from a one-point B&I Cup defeat by London Irish in mid-December.
Last weekend both clubs defeated visitors from Yorkshire, with the Pirates victorious by 34-5 over Rotherham Titans and Jersey getting the better of Yorkshire Carnegie by 24-19 at St Peter.
Head Coach Harvey Biljon, returning to the club where he was Assistant Coach before moving to Jersey in January 2014, has made minimal changes to his squad - one in each row of the pack.
Skipper James Freeman was a late withdrawal last Friday, but returns to the back row with Max Argyle reverting to the bench. Dave McKern misses out with injury, meaning James Voss (pictured below taking on the Pirates last November) will partner Pierce Phillips in the engine room, both players making their 50th appearances for Jersey. And at prop Simon Kerrod is also ruled out with injury; this means an opportunity in the tight-head berth for Mark Tampin, who will make just his third league start of the season.
"Dave and Simon both took knocks in what was a physical encounter against Yorkshire Carnegie and we don't want to risk players who aren't 100% at this stage of the season," Biljon said. "James Voss gets his chance after some good impact from the bench last time out, and Mark Tampin is eager to show what he can do after not getting many opportunities in recent weeks."
The two sides' previous encounter this season was at St Peter on Guy Fawkes Day when Jersey won 27-24 to maintain the pattern of home advantage in fixtures between the rivals.
The Reds' squad will be accompanied on a charter flight to Cornwall Airport Newquay by a group of 38 supporters, who will be joining a number of independent travellers to cheer on their team in what is one of the most popular away fixtures of the season.
The Reds and the Pirates will contest back-to-back fixtures within days, as the Cornishmen will travel to Jersey next Friday for an evening B&I Cup quarter-final tie that is one of the biggest rugby fixtures ever hosted in the Channel Islands. The Reds will be seeking to reach the B&I semi-finals for the second consecutive season, while the Pirates have ambitions of repeating their cup-winning campaign of 2009-10. Advance tickets are available at just £12 (non-members) and £10 (members) via Eventbrite.
Jersey Reds squad v Cornish Pirates (A) - British & Irish Cup quarter-final, Sunday March 5th, Mennaye Field; k-o 2pm
James Freeman (capt)
Jack Macfarlane, Jake Woolmore, Jake Armstrong, Uili Kolo'ofa'i, Max Argyle; Joel Dudley, Lewis Robling.