Locking horns with top-flight opposition may have been a regular feature of early season action for Jersey Reds in recent years, but this weekend the Island side will make history with a first-ever competitive match against a Gallagher Premiership club.
The Reds encounter with Bath at the Recreation Ground, which will be televised live by TNT Sports, takes place in the second round of the expanded Premiership Rugby Cup, which sees teams from the top two tiers of the English game paired for the first time.
Previous match-ups with Prem clubs have been friendly affairs, with the likes of Harlequins, Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks joining Bath in making trips to the Island during pre-season over the past five years.
Both sides began their cup campaigns with maximum points in their opening hit-outs. Bath were pushed all the way by Cornish Pirates at the Mennaye Field before winning 23-29, while it was a more comfortable affair for the Reds away to London Scottish, with the final score 0-43.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon and coaching colleagues have made minimal changes to the squad, with three new faces coming into the starting XV of whom one - wing Robin Wedlake - will make his competitive debut for the Reds. The former Cornish Pirate takes over from Pete Sullivan in the number 11 shirt, hoping to add a try to his pre-season effort against Richmond (pictured top by Simon Cooper).
The starting pack sees two replacements against the Exiles props Sam Grahamslaw and Stevie Longwell introduced from the get-go as Greg McGrath and Adam Nicol switch to the bench.
The balance of the Reds bench switches from 5:3 to 6:2, with Tim Grey the extra forward beef and former Exeter University fly-half Josh Barton in line for his competitive debut.
Three members of the squad will play their second competitive games for the Reds after signing in the summer: hooker Dafydd Hughes, lock John Hawkins and replacement forward Thom Smith.
The live Broadcast on TNT Sports will be the first time the Reds have featured in a televised game since the visit to the Madejski Stadium for the RFU Championship game against London Irish in January 2019.
In their most recent encounter with the Reds in early September 2022, Bath scored six of the nine tries to win 17-38 at Stade Santander International. The only previous meeting, discounting an unofficial training match in the 1990s, saw a visiting Bath side featuring the likes of Matt Banahan, Gavin Henson, Jonathan Joseph, Peter Stringer, Stuart Hooper and Rob Webber defeat the Reds by 10-34 in August 2014.
After returning from the west of England, the Reds will set their sights on their 2023/24 home opener as Exeter Chiefs visit Stade Santander International kick-off for the game on Saturday September 23rd will be at 2pm.
Jersey Reds squad v Bath Rugby (A) 2023/24 Premiership Rugby Cup, pool C round 2, The Recreation Ground, Saturday September 16th, k-o 1pm (* competitive debut)
Brendan Owen; Ben Woollett, Alex McHenry, Jordan Holgate, Robin Wedlake*; Russell Bennett, James Elliott.
Sam Grahamslaw, Daf Hughes, Stevie Longwell, John Hawkins, James Scott, Max Argyle, Lewis Wynne (capt), Alun Lawrence.
James Hadfield, Greg McGrath, Adam Nicol, Hallam Chapman, Thom Smith, Tim Grey; James Mitchell, Josh Barton*.
29 Sep 2023
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