The first Championship match of 2023 to be played at Stade Santander International offers a chance for Jersey Reds to return to winning ways after two disappointing results in succession away from home.
Previously unbeaten in the league, the Reds travelled to London on Christmas Eve for a summit meeting with leaders Ealing, but lost 43-22. Three weeks later the third v second clash at the Butts Park Arena looked set to end in another Jersey loss, but the visitors staged a fine fightback at the death to seal a 19-all draw.
London Scottish are the visitors to the Stade this Saturday, and will face a wary home club, some of whose more experienced campaigners will recall an unexpected home loss by 10-13 at the hands of the Exiles in December 2019.
Having captained Scottish that day, Lewis Wynne moved to Jersey the following summer and will lead a Reds’ side showing 10 changes to the starting XV which began the game against Coventry last weekend.
Greg McGrath, Eoghan Clarke and Stevie Longwell will combine in the front row, while Hamish Bain and James Scott link up as starting locks for the first time in the league. Tim Grey, scorer of one of the comeback tries at Coventry, comes into the back row alongside the two retained forwards, Wynne and James Dunn.
James Elliott and Russell Bennett will form an unchanged half-back partnership, with Brendan Owen retained at full-back, but the threequarter line-up is a fresh one, comprising wings Will Brown and Ryan Hutler alongside centres Dan Barnes – the other former Exile in the home squad – and Charlie Powell.
The Reds’ bench includes opportunities for three players – prop Huw Owen, hooker James Hadfield and back row man Josh Gray – who last featured during the November trio of Championship encounters and will be eager to force their way into contention over the coming weeks.
After torrential rainfall earlier in the week that brought flooding to many parts of the Islands and more than 50 households evacuated, the Island has been grateful for a largely dry spell since Tuesday afternoon. This has allowed time for the pitch at Stade Santander International to dry out, with a match-day forecast of plentiful sunshine, light winds and a maximum temperature of 7c.
Overall the Reds and the Exiles have played 18 Championship games since first meeting in October 2012, when a 20-17 Jersey win was the newly-promoted club’s first at level two. Each side has won nine league games, while there have been Jersey wins in all six cup ties between the sides.
The Reds claimed a league double last season, starting their campaign with a 7-47 win at the RAG and followed it up with a 31-13 home win in December, and also took the honours in a two-legged, late-season, Championship Cup encounter.
A difficult start to the current campaign for the Exiles included a 21-55 home loss to the Reds, for whom Will Brown claimed a hat-trick within five minutes as the visitors pulled away from a narrow 7-12 lead at the break.
However the Exiles have been significantly more competitive since the start of the second block of Championship fixtures kicked off in early December, including their first league win on home turf against Caldy and several very narrow defeats.
After an away trip to face Cornish Pirates on January 28th, the Reds’ next home game will be a cup encounter with Ealing, the game kicking off at 2pm on Saturday February 4th.
Jersey Reds squad v London Scottish (H) – 2022/23 RFU Championship, game 13/22, Stade Santander International, Saturday January 21st, k-o 3pm
Brendan Owen; Ryan Hutler, Charlie Powell, Dan Barnes, Will Brown; Russell Bennett, James Elliott.
Greg McGrath, Eoghan Clarke, Stevie Longwell, Hamish Bain, James Scott, James Dun, Lewis Wynne (capt), Tim Grey.
James Hadfield, Huw Owen, Monty Weatherby, Sean O’Connor, Hallam Chapman, Josh Gray; Jonny Law, Jordan Holgate.
18 May 2023
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