Jersey Reds will need to buck a historic trend, and defy the form book, if they are to defeat Yorkshire Carnegie in Sunday's Greene King IPA Championship fixture.
The Reds have never won at Emerald Headingley, having made seven previous visits to the newly-refurbished stadium on the outskirts of Leeds, and will take on a home side who have overcome a miserable start to the season to win 10 of the 12 games they've played since the start of November.
The visitors will take heart from a comfortable win in September's reverse fixture at Stade Santander International, albeit against a side that has been structurally reinforced in all areas. This recruitment drive has seen Carnegie climb up the table, as well as reaching the semi-finals of the Championship Cup.
Four first-half tries set the Reds on the way to their 36-19 victory in September, and Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon is looking to his side to arrest a mini-slump that has included defeat at league leaders London Irish, a narrow cup reverse to Cornish Pirates, and a below-par display on home turf last weekend that saw them lose 14-24 to London Scottish.
Biljon brings eight new players into this week's starting XV, several of whom were introduced from the bench against Scottish. The established front row trio of Roy Godfrey, Charlie Maddison and Leeroy Atalifo are introduced en bloc, while Janco Venter returns to the back row. Conor Joyce misses out through illness having returned from injury last weekend, so Kyle Hatherell moves across to flanker.
In the backs, Will Homer comes in at scrum-half, Mark Best at centre, Koch Marx at wing and Jason Worrall at full-back. There's one positional switch as well, with Brett Herron moving up from full-back to fly-half, and Aaaron Penberthy drops to the bench.
The two sides were separated by just two points in the Championship table last season, the Reds finishing one place and two points above their hosts this weekend. The sides played each other four times, splitting a brace of British & Irish Cup pool games while Carnegie won both league encounters, 10-20 at Stade Santander in November and 26-21 at Emerald Headingley in April.
The 2017-18 campaign maintained a long-term trend since Jersey reached the Championship in 2012, with Carnegie winning 13 of the 18 matches between the sides.
Jersey Reds Athletic have a home game this Saturday, taking on Richmond Saxons at 3pm. Jersey Reds Women will be in action the following Saturday, taking on Amesbury at home (k-o 12.30pm). The next 1st XV home game is the 'Friday Night Lights' encounter with Doncaster Knights on Friday March 1st - k-o 7.45pm. Advance tickets can be purchased HERE - priced just £15 for adult non-members if booked more than 48 hours before kick-off.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Yorkshire Carnegie (A) - Greene King IPA Championship Round 15/22, Sunday February 17th, Emerald Headingley Stadium, k-o 3pm
Leroy Van Dam
Jerry Sexton (capt)
Jack Macfarlane, Harry Morley, Sam Rodman, Charlie Beckett, Jake Upfield; Liam Howley, Aaron Penberthy
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