Jersey Reds will be looking to translate cup form into league performance in their final home match of 2017, when Hartpury RFC are the visitors to Stade Santander International.
The Reds have a perfect record after four rounds of the B&I Cup, but a somewhat mixed league record, notably on home turf. Rebuilding the reputation of their home ground as a fortress is a priority for the second half of the season, starting with the 'Friday Night Lights' match that will form the centre-piece of the Jersey Reds Christmas Party.
Hartpury made a creditable start to their first season in the Greene King IPA Championship, with two wins and a draw from their first six fixtures, which also included a tight encounter against the Reds at the Gillman's Ground in Gloucestershire. The hosts led 12-0 after scoring two tries in the first quarter, but Jersey battled back with 20 unanswered points after the break before finally winning 19-20.
Hartpury's season has been a tougher proposition in recent weeks, with just one win in their last nine outings in league and cup; this sets up a Christmas cracker of a fixture which both sides will be highly motivated to win.
As well as being locked together on 21 points in the Championship table, both teams have the same try tally, with 26 apiece. Jersey have a slight edge in defence thus far, conceding a league-low of 26 tries - level with Ealing Trailfinders - against Hartpury's 31.
The visiting squad is likely to include two young Jerseymen currently based in Gloucestershire, Harry Cochrane and Luke Stratford, while the Reds will field Hartpury old boy James Voss, a late withdrawal from the September trip after being taken ill.
A mounting casualty list among Jersey's backs has forced the selection hand of Head Coach Harvey Biljon, who will field virtually the same back-line as last weekend's 18-45 B&I win over London Scottish. The lone exception is the recall of centre Mark Best, who was withdrawn last Saturday after an injury in the warm-up, but has been declared fit to step back in place of Ellis Abrahams, another injured party. Two scrum-halves, Tim Duchesne and Joel Dudley, will provide 'last men standing' cover from the bench.
The Reds' pack sees five changes, including an all-new front row as Jake Woolmore, Nick Selway and Jake Armstrong are recalled to duty. Also restored to the starting line-up are flanker Conor Joyce and number 8 Matt Rogerson, who will pack down in the back row alongside Max Argyle. Argyle is one of two more Reds' players to have agreed new contracts this month, the other being centre George Eastwell, currently working his way back to fitness after an early-season injury.
Jersey Reds squad v Hartpury RFC (H) - Greene King IPA Championship Round 12/22, Friday December 22nd, Stade Santander International, k-o 7.45pm
Jake Woolmore (capt)
Jack Macfarlane, Roy Godfrey, Leeroy Atalifo, Dave Mckern, Jake Upfield; Tim Duchesne, Joel Dudley
23 Mar 2023
January lessons show danger of banana skin in SW London