After three rounds of cup rugby and a weekend off, Jersey Reds are champing at the bit for this Saturday’s return to league action.
The game against visitors Richmond at Stade Santander International will take place 43 days after the most recent RFU Championship action at the ground, when the Reds gained a narrow victory over Doncaster Knights.
The home side will be seeking to return to winning ways having suffered their only defeat of the season in the Championship Cup against Ealing Trailfinders a fortnight ago. The 22-13 loss at Vallis Way broke a run of nine Jersey wins in league and cup so far this season, although the Reds are unbeaten in nine straight league games, dating back to March.
Having utilised the majority of his squad during the first three months of the season – fitness permitting – Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon is able to select a strong squad to take on eighth-placed Richmond.
Most of the changes to the starting XV that started the cup clash with Ealing come in the pack, which has a pronounced Celtic flavour. Prop Greg McGrath, hooker Eoghan Clarke and lock Sean O’Connor represent Ireland, while the Scottish Saltire is flown by prop Adam Nicol, lock Hamish Bain and skipper Lewis Wynne on the flank. Englishmen Max Argyle and Hallam Chapman make up the remaining two-thirds of the back row.
The Reds’ back-line is the same unit that began the most recent league outing against Hartpury at the end of October. Half-backs James Elliott and Russell Bennett link up again, as do the centre pairing of Jordan Holgate and Alex McHenry, while Tomi Lewis, Ben Woollett and Scott Van Breda make up the back three.
The Reds’ replacements include Macauley Cook, usually a regular in the starting XV but now looking to make an impact from the bench, on-loan Bristol Bears’ centre Charlie Powell and back row man Tim Grey, who is set for his first action of the season after recovering from injury.
The current season is the eighth in the past two decades when the clubs have been in the same league. In 2002/03, Richmond were champions of London 3 South-West (level 7), defeating the Reds 3-32 at St Peter and 30-13 at the Richmond Athletic Ground as part of a run of 83 successive league wins.
In 2010/11 it was Jersey who gained promotion, from National Two South – honours between the two sides finished even, with Jersey winning 29-9 at St Peter having lost 25-14 in south-west London.
More recently the clubs have met nine times in the Championship, with the Reds winning seven of the encounters and also taking the honours in two Championship Cup games. At the end of October last year, the visitors from Jersey made an impressive start at the RAG, with Wes White crossing in the fourth minute, and led 0-19 at the break; but it was a far closer affair after that, with Richmond closing the gap to just two points on the hour mark before the Reds claimed a fourth try and eventually won 20-26. In the return fixture in January of this year, the Reds held a narrow 12-10 lead on the hour, but a strong last quarter brought a final score of 29-13.
Tickets for Saturday's game remain available and should be purchased online, in advance via THIS LINK. Jersey Met is forecasting a cool, cloudy day, with a few bright spots and just a 10% chance of any rain.
Jersey Reds squad v Richmond (H) – 2022/23 RFU Championship, game 8/22, Stade Santander International, Saturday December 3rd, k-o 3pm
Scott Van Breda; Ben Woollett, Alex McHenry, Jordan Holgate, Tomi Lewis; Russell Bennett, James Elliott.
Greg McGrath, Eoghan Clarke, Adam Nicol, Hamish Bain, Sean O’Connor, Max Argyle, Lewis Wynne (capt), Hallam Chapman.
TJ Harris, Huw Owen, Monty Weatherby, Macauley Cook, Tim Grey; Jonny Law, Charlie Powell, Ryan Hutler.
03 Feb 2023
Home side look to improve poor record over London rivals