Reds must focus on Titans test17/03/2017
Forget about the semi-finals of the British & Irish Cup. Don't worry about entertaining the league leaders in a week's time. Ignore the climax of the RBS 6 Nations. Jersey Reds need to focus on what's happening in their St Peter backyard at 3pm on Saturday.
This weekend's visitors to the Island, Rotherham Titans, have won just four of their 17 games to date in the Greene King IPA Championship and are currently just a point off the bottom of the table, albeit that there's no relegation this season. On paper it should be an eminently winnable game for the home team, who have won seven consecutive matches, but the Reds know that if they were to take their eye off the ball, Titans have a squad who are eminently capable of springing a surprise.
The Reds know that they cannot afford a slip-up if they are to retain realistic hopes of claiming one of the Championship's top four seats before the music stops after the Easter weekend fixtures in a month's time.
After having his squad reduced to the bare minimum earlier in the season through injuries, Jersey's Harvey Biljon has had a far greater proportion of his players available for selection recently. The Head Coach makes just three changes to the starting XV from last Friday's convincing B&I quarter-final win (36-20) over Cornish Pirates.
Joe Buckle missed the cup match, but is back as the starting hooker. Nick Selway remains on the bench as cover, so there's no place for Jack Macfarlane.
In the backs, Kieran Hardy has recovered from injury and starts at scrum-half, with Joel Dudley reverting to the bench. And there's a welcome return for Rich Lane, who has been out of action for five months after sustaining an injury in the B&I Cup tie against Ulster 'A' in Belfast in October. Lane takes the right wing spot previously occupied by Ross Adair.
The two sides have been evenly-matched during their five seasons competing against each other at Championship level. The Reds did the double last season, winning both matches by convincing margins, but overall the Titans have the edge, with five wins and a draw from nine encounters. The last match-up took place at Clifton Lane in November, when Jersey led 9-16 after 70 minutes but were over-hauled thanks to a late brace of tries from Ben Foley, both converted by debutant Caolan Ryan - it finished 23-16 to the Yorkshiremen.
This weekend's game will be the first league match at St Peter held in the traditional 3pm Saturday slot since the Reds defeated Titans' near-neighbours Doncaster Knights at the start of December. The same day and kick-off time will apply to the remaining matches at St Peter this season - against league leaders London Irish on March 25th, and on the last day of the regular season, April 15th, when Richmond are the visitors. But these future challenges are the ones that need to be ignored in the short-term!
Three other matches of note for Reds' teams this weekend include a welcome return to action for the Jersey Ladies, who have been rebuilding this season and will host a match against the Pumas from South London. Sunday's game (3pm k-o) will follow a league match, also at St Peter, between Jersey's Colts and their counterparts from Guernsey (11am k-o). On Saturday, Jersey Reds Athletic travel to the Forest of Dean for a Zoo Shield match against Cinderford.
Jersey Reds squad v Rotherham Titans (H) - Greene King IPA Championship Round 19, Saturday March 18th, St Peter; k-o 3pm
James Freeman (capt)
Nick Selway, Sean McCarthy, Jake Armstrong, Uili Kolo'ofa'i, Max Argyle; Joel Dudley, Lewis Robling.