For the first time in 420 days, Jersey Reds will run out on their home turf at Stade Santander International this weekend.
After a year’s Covid-enforced break from competitive rugby, the Reds have begun the 2020/21 Greene King IPA Championship campaign with five consecutive away games as a result of the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
But at 2.59pm on Saturday the long wait for a home match will end, and to crown the occasion the Reds will have supporters lined up around the pitch and banging the boards – the first crowd at a rugby match in the British Isles since September made possible by the easing of restrictions on the Island.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon brings six players into his starting XV following last weekend’s loss to Ealing Trailfinders, as well as making some positional switches.
With Apakuki Ma’afu ruled out after a red card during the Ealing game and resulting suspension, Jack Roberts and Dan Barnes are paired together in midfield for the first time, with Tom Williams and Brendan Owen on the wings and Scott Van Breda dropping back to full-back. Brendan Cope and Max Green retain the half-back positions.
In the front row of the pack, the versatile Dan Richardson reverts to the loose-head berth, packing down alongside hooker Jack Macfarlane and tight-head Ciaran Parker. Macauley Cook moves from flanker to lock, with Max Argyle recalled to fill the blind-side position.
Recent signings Eoghan Clarke (hooker) and James Scott (second row) are among the Red replacements, alongside fly-half Bader Pretorius, who is in line for just his second competitive appearance since joining the Reds in February.
Nottingham Rugby are the Reds’ opponents this weekend, with the two sides lining up after having had to call off a match scheduled for the second weekend of March 2020, just as the pandemic started to worsen. Both clubs have had challenging starts to the season and currently lie alongside each other in 10th and 11th places in the Championship table.
Since Jersey reached the second tier in 2012, the Reds have won nine league encounters between the sides and the Green-and-Whites five matches, with one draw.
Some tickets for the game are still available - these must be purchased online and in advance via the Reds' website, with no sales at the gate.
In addition to the live crowd, the match will be able to be viewed live, with the streaming service – priced at £10 – operated via the Championship website.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Nottingham Rugby – Greene King IPA Championship, Round 7/11, Stade Santander International, Saturday April 24th 2021, k-o 3pm
Scott Van Breda; Tom Williams, Jack Roberts, Dan Barnes, Brendan Owen; Brendan Cope, Max Green; Dan Richardson, Jack Macfarlane, Ciaran Parker, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, Max Argyle, Lewis Wynne (capt), Matti Williams
Eoghan Clarke, Ollie Dawe, Jack Higgins, Tim Grey, James Scott, James Elliott, Josh Bainbridge, Bader Pretorius