Seeking to qualify for the knock-out stages of the British & Irish Cup for the first time, Jersey face a must-win encounter against Welsh visitors the Dragons at St Peter tomorrow.
The Islanders are looking for a third win in the fifth outing of their 2015/16 B&I campaign. This would set up a pool 5 decider against Doncaster Knights at Castle Park next weekend, but the Welsh visitors will present a stiff task for Harvey Biljon's squad.
The Dragons Premiership Select side inflicted a 30-27 defeat on Jersey in round 2 in the match played at the Pandy Park home of Cross Keys RFC. The Greene King IPA Championship side trailed 17-10 at the break but dominated the second half, taking a four-point lead into added time but then being denied with a Dragons try in the final play of the match.
Biljon has made several changes to his squad from their most recent outing, the 17-all home draw against Doncaster in the Championship two weekends ago. Three backs slot into the starting XV: Mark McCrea and Mark Cooke in midfield, and Aaron Penberthy at full-back; and there are positional switches for Lewis Robling, who starts at fly-half against his former club, and Rich Lane, selected at left wing.
Among the forwards only captain Pierce Phillips and flanker James Freeman retain their starting shirts from the Knights game. Sean McCarthy comes in at loose-head to partner Martin Garcia-Veiga and Danny Herriott in the front row, the Tongan Uili Kolo'ofa'i will partner Phillips in the engine room, while Tommy Spinks and Nick Haining make up the back row.
Jersey's bench includes new signing Simon Kerrod, who will be looking to make an impact in his first outing since arriving on the Island from South Africa.
The match will be refereed by Irishman Nigel Correll, who took charge of Jersey's first-ever B&I Cup match, the 20-20 draw against Pontypridd at St Peter in October 2012. He will be assisted by RFU officials Simon Adams and Lionel Spooner, while the fourth official is the Uruguayan Luis Caviglia.
The home side will be looking for a bumper crowd in what will be their last home match for three weeks, and those looking to attend will be cheered by the news that recent wet weather has given way to more settled conditions. Saturday afternoon looks set to be cold, but without any of the extreme wind-and-rain combination that blighted the New Year's game against Doncaster. Kick-off at St Peter is at the earlier time of 2.30pm.
Jersey v Newport Gwent Dragons Premiership Select (H) - Greene King IPA Championship, Saturday January 16th, St Peter, k-o 2.30pm
Pierce Phillips (capt)
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