Jersey and Connacht Eagles will take to the field at the Galway Sportsground on Saturday for what is a virtual eliminator in the 2015/16 British & Irish Cup.
Neither the Islanders nor the Irish provincial 'A' team have won a match in the B&I so far this season, and both sides know that defeat would be likely to signal the end of any realistic chance of progression to the knock-out stages.
The visitors have announced a squad that is similar to their line-up in the most recent B&I encounter, a 30-27 defeat to the Dragons Select XV at the Pandy Park, home of Crosskeys RFC, where the Welsh side snatched victory with a try in the final play of the match.
The only change to the starting back-line from the Welsh trip sees Ed Dawson come in at wing for his first competitive action of 2015/16. Oli Evans moves inside to centre while Rhys Owen drops to the bench. Aaron Penberthy plays at fly-half, having played full-back in Jersey's past three Greene King IPA Championship games.
The starting pack has four changes from the unit who took the field against the Dragons (pictured above by Simon Latham). Nacho Lancuba and Danny Herriott are the starting props, Dave Markham slots into the second row alongside captain Pierce Phillips, while Tommy Spinks is added to the back row in place of Gary Graham.
Jersey's bench will have a 4:3 split of forwards and backs, and includes three front row players: Sean McCarthy, Ben Featherstone and Russell Anderson.
Although the personnel will be different, the Islanders will be looking to translate their excellent recent League form into the Cup - Jersey have won three Championship matches in succession for the first time ever and moved into the top half of the table.
Both sides are competing in the B&I Cup for the fourth time and boast very similar records during this period: both have won five of their 20 games thus far, with Jersey also having two draws. All the Eagles' wins have come on home soil, where they have shown they are more than capable of competing against Championship opponents, with victories over the likes of Bedford, Rotherham and London Scottish.
Jersey have yet to win a match on Irish soil, with away defeats in Cup over the past three seasons to Leinster 'A' (twice) and Ulster Ravens.
The two sides will meet in back-to-back encounters over the coming weekends. On Saturday December 19th the Irish province, whose first team have been among the front-runners in the Guinness Pro12 this season, will travel to the Channel Islands. As a festive gesture to supporters, tickets for the match will be available at last season's prices: £10 for members and £15 for non-members. Kick-off at St Peter will be at 2pm.
There is no rugby involving JRFC sides on the Island this weekend after the cancellation of Saturday's Jersey Athletic v Cinderford match, with the visitors unable to fulfil the Zoo Shield fixture. On Sunday, Jersey's Ladies and Colts teams have away matches against Lewes and Basingstoke respectively.
Jersey v Connacht Eagles - British & Irish Cup, Pool 5, Sat Dec 12th, The Galway Sportsground, k-o 2.30pm
Pierce Phillips (capt)
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