Jersey Reds’ opening RFU Championship fixture against Ampthill will go ahead this weekend following the sad news regarding the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who also had a title specific to Jersey, where she was referred to affectionately as the Duke of Normandy.
Following discussions between the two clubs, and guidance from the Department for Media, Culture and Sport in the UK, it has been determined that the fixture will go ahead, with the rugby family, including players, officials and supporters from both clubs, having the opportunity to pay their respects to the late Queen ahead of the 3pm kick-off.
For more on the DCMS guidance issued via the RFU - see HERE.
Saturday’s game at the Olney Arena marks the end of a 12-week pre-season schedule for the Reds which culminated in three friendly matches against Gallagher Premiership opponents: Leicester Tigers, London Irish and Bath.
The Reds and their hosts this weekend were separated by just two places in last season’s final Championship rankings. Ampthill won eight and drew two of their 20 league matches, eventually attaining a mid-table finish in sixth place.
In selecting his line-up for the league opener, director of Rugby Harvey Biljon has retained 11 members of the starting XV from the Reds’ final pre-season outing, the 17-38 defeat by Bath at Stade Santander International. Six players will make their competitive debuts after arriving on the Island this summer, with a further five new signings named on the bench.
One of those coming into the starting XV is fly-half Russell Bennett, who will face the team he was playing for last season. James Mitchell gets the nod at scrum-half.
In the outside backs, Scott Van Breda is at full-back for what will be his 50th game for the Reds, while another player who was prominent last season, Jordan Holgate, is selected at centre in partnership with Alex McHenry, a summer signing from Munster. The wing berths will be filled by the Australian/Welsh combination of Ben Woollett and Tomi Lewis, both of whom were among the try-scorers during pre-season.
The starting XV features the return of Sean O’Connor after suspension, with the Irishman resuming his partnership with Macauley Cook in the second row. New signing Sam Grahamslaw joins Steve Longwell and hooker TJ Harris in the front row, while there’ll also be a debutant in the back row, as Bristol Bears’ loanee James Dun lines up alongside Alun Lawrence and skipper Lewis Wynne.
The Reds’ bench includes another Bristol loan signing, with centre Charlie Powell in line for his debut alongside hooker James Hadfield – who claimed a brace of tries against Bath – lock Hamish Bain and props Greg McGrath and Monty Weatherby. Three familiar faces from previous seasons, back row man Max Argyle and half-back duo James Elliott and Brendan Cope, complete the replacements’ roster.
The two sides will be meeting for the fifth time since Ampthill were promoted in 2019, with three of the four previous games having taken place in Bedfordshire. The first encounter in November 2019 was by far the highest-scoring, with the Reds claiming seven of the 12 tries and winning 38-47.
Following the Covid shutdown, Ampthill again played host in May 2021, this time behind closed doors as the visitors won 14-29, while in January of this year Holgate’s late try was the crucial score in a 12-17 Jersey win.
The only game on Jersey turf came last October, when the Reds scored two tries in the last 10 minutes to salvage a 17-all draw.
Following this weekend’s trip, the Reds will look forward to their opening league match at Stade Santander International, with Coventry the visitors for a game that will kick off at 3pm on Saturday September 17th. Season tickets and individual match tickets can be purchased via THIS LINK.
While the Reds’ professionals are away, the Island’s leading amateur male players will be looking forward to playing their first game since being accepted into Hampshire Counties 1, level seven of the English rugby structure. This ‘debut’ follows a formal separation of the professional and amateur sections of the club, which was approved by members this summer and sanctioned by the RFU. The Jersey RFC match against Havant will kick off at 1.30pm.
All the profiles for players, coaches and back-room staff for the 2022/23 season are now available on the Reds website - see HERE.
Jersey Reds squad v Ampthill & District (A) – 2022/23 RFU Championship game 1/22, Olney Arena, Saturday September 10th, k-o 3pm (* = competitive debut)
Starting backs (15-9)
Scott Van Breda; Ben Woollett*, Alex McHenry*, Jordan Holgate, Tomi Lewis*; Russell Bennett*, James Mitchell.
Starting forwards (1-8)
Sam Grahamslaw*, Antonio ‘TJ’ Harris, Steve Longwell, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, James Dun*, Lewis Wynne (c), Alun Lawrence.
Replacements (16-23): James Hadfield*, Greg McGrath*, Monty Weatherby*, Hamish Bain*, Max Argyle; James Elliott, Brendan Cope, Charlie Powell*.
Why not come a chillout in the supporters marquee before the game, A fully stocked bar and food is available, seated and standing tables, on a first come first served basis and a great place to meet the Reds supporters.