Although they've been mixing in the same rugby circles for just six years, Jersey and Ealing Trailfinders are each other's oldest rivals in the Greene King IPA Championship.
The Channel Islanders and the West Londoners first met when they arrived in National Two South in September 2010. Tomorrow they meet at Trailfinders' Vallis Way home with a great deal is at stake for both clubs: Ealing battling to avoid relegation, Jersey still with distant hopes of gate-crashing the end-of-season play-offs.
Heading into the penultimate round of league fixtures, the visitors know that only a win will keep them in range of fourth-placed Bedford Blues, who currently have an eight-point cushion between themselves and their pursuers. Further down the table, Ealing currently lie 11th, and a win over Jersey would represent a massive step towards Championship safety.
A free weekend has allowed Jersey's players to recharge their batteries and enabled Head Coach Harvey Biljon to name an unchanged starting XV and just a lone change on the replacements' bench.
Rich Lane has recovered from the hamstring injury sustained in scoring his side's opening try in the 44-27 win over Rotherham at St Peter two weeks ago (pictured below by Jacquie Ranieri), and will line up once again on the wing, with Aaron Penberthy back on the bench.
Joel Dudley's impressive recent form has achieved a double benefit for the 24-year-old scrum-half. Not only does he retain the number nine shirt ahead of Tongan international Sami Fisilau, but Dudley (pictured below) has also become the latest squad member to agree a new deal to remain at St Peter - 2016/17 will be his fifth season on the Island.
Jersey's pack includes flanker James Freeman, who has just been named on the four-man shortlist for the Championship Player of the Month award, a reward for some impactful displays in his club's last three league matches. More information on the POTM award, and voting details are available HERE
The only change to the squad is on the bench, with Nick Selway back in place of Martin Garcia-Veiga. New signing Jake Woolmore stands by to make his second appearance for the Reds as a front-row replacement.
The two clubs have build up a keen rivalry in recent seasons since first meeting in National Two South in 2010/11. Jersey won three games to their rivals' one in the National Leagues, but when they were again paired together in the Championship in 2013/14, Ealing won both encounters, only to be condemned to relegation by the Islanders on the final day of the season. When Ealing found the trail back to the Championship this season, Jersey took a 4-3 lead in the series with a 35-7 win at St Peter in December.
The match at Vallis Way will form part of a double Jersey invasion of London, with the amateur 2nd XV Jersey Athletic playing their final Zoo Shield match of the season against Richmond Vikings at 11.30am. This will be a huge challenge for the Island side, currently lying equal second in the Zoo table, against the league leaders, who have a long and proud unbeaten record.
After returning home on Saturday evening, Jersey will prepare for the final match of the regular Championship season, which sees Yorkshire Carnegie visit St Peter on Saturday April 23rd. The match kicks off at 3pm and looks set to provide a high-octane finish to the 2016/17 campaign.
Jersey squad v Ealing Trailfinders (A) - Greene King IPA Championship, Saturday April 16th, Vallis Way, k-o 3pm
Alex Rae (capt)
27 Jan 2023
Live stream option for 24the meeting between rivals