Jersey Reds will face potentially the toughest episode of a testing three-match pre-season schedule when they square up to Sale Sharks tonight (k-o 7.45pm).
The Sharks, who are making their first visit to the Island, were the third highest-ranked side in England during 2020/21 and are set to field a significant number of English and South African internationals in the squad.
The inaugural meeting with the Reds comes at the end of a week-long training camp for the Manchester-based club, who have been training at the home side's base at Stade Santander International and the adjacent Strive high performance centre.
Reds Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon shuffles his line-up to ensure that all fit members of his 1st XV squad will have been given game-time during pre-season, which has also featured a 28-all draw away to second tier French side RC Vannes and a 7-17 home defeat to Leicester Tigers.
Captain Lewis Wynne will lead out the team, while there are first starts of pre-season for prop James Flynn and scrum-half Harry Simmons. The game is likely to feature multiple changes from both sides, with up to 14 replacements set to participate for the home side.
Sale Sharks have been a fixture in the top flight of English rugby since being promoted from Courage League 2 in 1994.
In 2006 the Sharks finished top of the Premiership and went on to become champions by defeating Leicester Tigers 45-20 in the final. The club have also won the European Challenge Cup twice – in 2002 and 2005 – and most recently lifted the Premiership Cup in 2020.
The main connections between the current Jersey Reds 1st XV squad and Sale Sharks involve the front row. Props Ciaran Parker and James Flynn both spent time with the Sharks earlier in their career, while Head Coach (and former hooker) Rob Webber spent the final four seasons of his playing career at the AJ Bell before moving to Jersey in 2020.
The pre-eminent match official in global rugby, Wayne Barnes has refereed 95 test matches during a 15-season international career, and today will take charge of a match in Jersey for the first time.
The 42-year-old from Gloucestershire has officiated at four Rugby World Cups, as well as taking charge of around 300 matches in the Gallagher Premiership and Heineken European Cup, including nine domestic and two European finals.
Tickets for the Reds v Sharks match are still available, but must be purchased in advance via the JerseyReds.je website, with no sales at the gate. The match is also being streamed live at a cost of £10 via the following link: https://threecisport.ticketco.events/uk/en/e/live_jersey_reds_preseason_game_vs_sale_sharks
Both sides will begin their respective league programmes on Saturday September 18th, with the Reds travelling to London Scottish in the RFU Championship while the Sharks entertain Bath in their Gallagher Premiership opener. The Reds will play their next home game at the Stade on Saturday September 25th against Bedford Blues (k-o 2.30pm).
The Reds' online match programme is available via THIS LINK
Jersey Reds (15-9, 1-8)
Scott Van Breda; Ryan Olowofela, Jordan Holgate, Dan Barnes, Brendan Owen; Brendan Cope, Harry Simmons; James Flynn, Eoghan Clarke, Ciaran Parker, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, Alex Humfrey, Lewis Wynne (capt), Max Argyle.
Replacements: Harry Doolan, Jack Macfarlane, Huw Owen, Roy Godfrey, Jack Higgins, Max Ayling, Zak Farrance, Wesley White, Tim Grey, James Elliott, James Mitchell, Sam Leeming, Bader Pretorius, Jack Roberts.