One of the most notable fixtures in the 140-year history of Jersey RFC will take place on Tuesday as Jersey Reds head to Moscow to take on the Russian national side.
The match at the Slava Stadium in the Russian capital represents a massive challenge for the visitors: as the Reds prepare for the forthcoming season in the Greene King IPA Championship, the second tier of the professional game in England, their hosts are getting ready to travel to Japan, where they will face the host nation, Samoa, Ireland and Scotland in Pool A of the forthcoming Rugby World Cup.
Known as the Bears, Russia are currently ranked 20 in the World Rugby rankings and will be preparing for their second World Cup, having previously qualified for the 2011 tournament in New Zealand.
Discussions between the Rugby Union of Russia and Jersey Reds were initiated as a result of family connections between Lyn Jones, the former Wales flanker who is Head Coach of the Bears, and his son Luc, a scrum-half who joined the Reds this summer.
The travelling party set off from Jersey on Saturday afternoon and after an overnight stop in London will complete their journey to Moscow on Sunday, allowing time to train and acclimatise ahead of the fixture on Tuesday evening.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon has selected a 26-man squad for the game, led by captain Apakuki Ma’afu, the Tongan international centre who will team up in midfield with James Newey. Luc Jones will start at scrum-half, partnering fly-half Greg Dyer, both players having pulled on the Red shirt for the first time in last Saturday’s curtain-raiser against Old Elthamians.
Another new signing, Tom Williams, is selected at full-back and will be flanked by wingers Leroy Van Dam and Auguy Slowik.
The Reds pack will include a front row of Roy Godfrey, TJ Harris and Zei Alexis, with Charlie Beckett and Alex Thompson forming the second row. Both Harris and Thompson joined the Island side this summer, as did Josh Bainbridge, who will pack down in the back row alongside Kyle Hatherell and Rory Bartle.
An 11-man bench will offer plenty of impact for the visitors. The forward options are props Alec Clarey and Harry Morley, hooker Jack Macfarlane, Sam Offer at second row and back row trio Max Argyle, Conor Joyce and Jake Upfield. Covering the back-line will be scrum-half Will Homer, centres Mark Best and George Spencer and wing Jack Stapley. Liam Howley and Brendan Cope will also be part of the squad as travelling reserves.
Jersey Reds have three pre-season games, the first of which saw them take on English National 1 opponents Old Elthamians last Saturday, scoring six tries in a 36-7 victory. After returning from Moscow on Wednesday, the pre-season schedule concludes on Saturday September 7th when Guinness PRO14 side Scarlets come to Stade Santander International.
Competitive action for the Reds begins with a Championship Cup tie at home to Newcastle Falcons on Saturday September 21st, while the first league match will be at home to Coventry on Saturday October 12th.