Jersey Reds play their opening match of 2016/17, and the first game since being renamed during the close season, when Coventry RFC visit St Peter this Saturday, August 6th.
The match will offer the first chance for home supporters to see several of the new signings to arrive on the Island this summer, and how they measure up against a side who have ambitions to reach the Greene King IPA Championship.
After a ninth-placed finish in National One last season, Coventry are looking to be in the promotion mix this time around. A new coaching and management structure, led by former Northampton Saints and Cambridge Coach Rowland Winter (pictured above), has been assembled, featuring no fewer than four player-coaches: a brace of former Bedford backs in James Pritchard and Brendan Burke, South African lock Brendon Snyman and former Leicester prop Boris Stankovich.
The match at St Peter kicks off at 3pm, with a flat-rate admission price of £5 for all adult spectators. Admittance for under 18s is free. Advance tickets may be obtained through the Reds' new ticketing partner Eventbrite in order to avoid match-day queues, or on the gate.
See HERE for the Jersey squad announcement
Down Memory Lane
Other than a tour match in the 1950s (mentioned below), the two clubs have met on three previous occasions:
Jersey 29 Coventry 3, December 3rd 2011
A ruthless second half display in wet and windy conditions earned Jersey maximum points and a ninth successive win.
Coventry took the lead through Luke Myring's straightforward penalty, but Jersey were 10-3 up at the break following a penalty try and five points from the boot of 'Le Booj'.
Turning up the heat in the second half, Jersey sealed the game with tries by Nick Trower and Steve O'Brien around the hour mark, and added the icing of a bonus point, courtesy of a second penalty try, with three minutes left.
Coventry 13 Jersey 37, April 21st 2012
After just one loss in their previous 22 league games, the Reds travelled to the Butts Park Arena knowing that a win would seal the National One title and promotion to the Championship.
After an anxious start, the visitors took a 6-13 lead back to the dressing room at half-time after a late penalty try following a scrum. Nick Trower's try soon after the resumption was a crucial moment, and an eventually comfortable victory was embellished with tries from Dai Bishop and Donovan Sanders, with fly-half Ross Broadfoot notching 17 points in a 13-37 win watched by a large contingent of travelling supporters in the crowd of 1,643.
Jersey 31 Coventry 21, August 31st 2013
The home-Island Reds warmed up for their second season in the Championship with an unconvincing win at St Peter.
The hosts scored an early first-half try by Grant Pointer and a penalty try and the score was 14-all at the break with Cov replying through Jacques Le Roux and Mark Kohler. There was still a deadlock inside the last 10 minutes (21-21 after a further penalty try was cancelled out by visiting wing Greg Evans) and although Jersey's Ben Maidment earned a red card for a punch, two late tries by his back-row colleague Fred Silcock sealed the win.
Coventry - a potted history
Founded in 1874, Coventry took up residence in their Coundon Road ground in 1921 and developed into one of England's leading clubs, especially during the 1950s, 60s and 70s with a stream of players capped by England, as well as a hat-trick of John Player (National) Cup titles from 1972-74.
The decline from this heyday coincided with the advent of the league system in 1987 and Coventry became a fixture at Level Two throughout the 1990s and beyond, including the move to Butts Park Arena in 2004.
In 2006, Chairman Keith Fairbrother, who had taken over the club after it went into receivership in 1998, sold the club to businessman Andrew Green, but three years later the club was placed in administration. A rescue package and the formation of a new company, Coventry Rugby Ltd, came in January 2010, but hampered by a 15-point deduction stemming from the financial woe, the club were relegated at the end of the 2009/10 season.
Cov have now spent six successive seasons at level three, with best finishes of fourth in 2013/14 and third the following season. This period has come amid a backdrop of determined re-establishment of a proud club on a firm financial footing and with a central role in its local community. Former England full-back Peter Rossborough played a key role in this process and held the positions of Chairman and President until businessman Jon Sharp became Chairman in February 2012 after serving on the Board for the previous year.
Sharp has expressed ambitions to challenge for a possible return to the Championship, backed up by an extensive summer of recruitment, which has left just nine players from the 2015/16 squad in this season's 41-man squad.
Famous Sons of Cov
• Alan Rotherham captained England during a 12-cap career in the 1880s, but later shot himself in 1898 at the age of 36.
• Ivor Preece, 12 England and a Lions' cap in the 1940s and 50s, including six times captaining his country
• Peter Robbins, 19 caps from the late 1950s, alongside his contemporary Bert Godwin (11 appearances)
• Phil Judd won 22 caps for his country at prop in the 1960s, skippering the team five times, and toured Jersey with Coventry in 1955 when aged in his early 20s. He watched the Coventry v Jersey match in 2012 but died aged 81 in 2015.
• The hey-day was probably from the late 60s to early 70s. In 1967 five Cov players were in the England XV v New Zealand (pictured above) - Judd, hooker Herbert Godwin, lock John Owen, scrum-half William Gittings and wing Rodney Webb (thanks to another son of Cov, Mick Curzons, for this nugget).
* In January 1973, centre Peter Preece (son of Ivor, 12 caps) and wing David Duckham (36 caps, 10 tries) both played for England against NZ, and by September that year this pair were joined in the backline by clubmates Geoff Evans (9 caps) and Peter Rossborough (7 caps, 34 points) in a historic win over the All Blacks in Auckland.
This is far from an exhaustive list, and still wouldn't be even if one mentioned other well-known names who turned out for Coventry even though their fame was largely earned elsewhere. These include Fran Cotton, Zinzan Brooke, Mike Umaga, Richard Cockerill, Andy Goode and Danny Grewcock.
Links with Jersey
Centre Donovan Sanders (pictured above), who returned to Jersey colours in this season's Siam Cup, played more than 100 games in four-and-a-half seasons at BPA after joining in late 2004, while loosehead Dai Maddocks was on the books from 2007 to 2010. As well as Dai and Donovan, other recent players with Jersey connections include George Dixon - Cov's top-scorer with nine tries in 2006/07 and back row player Henno Venter, who was appointed Head Coach of Stratford RFC this summer.
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.