In the week that Welsh songstress Shirley Bassey turned 80, Jersey Reds head to the legendary diva's native city looking to hit the high notes.
The Reds travel to Cardiff seeking their first win on Welsh soil at the fourth attempt. In fact there will be no soil involved, as the British & Irish Cup tie against Cardiff Blues Select will be played on the 3G pitch at The Wern, home ground of Welsh Premiership club Merthyr RFC.
Jersey are locked in a three-way tussle for supremacy in Pool 1 of this season's B&I with Ulster 'A' and London Scottish, who meet in Belfast on Friday evening. Any one of the trio could yet top the pool, and bonus points could yet be crucial. The Blues may be out of contention, but fought out two close battles with Ulster in December and will be keen to impress in front of their home supporters, as well as to avenge a 49-12 defeat at Jersey's hands when the two sides met in October at St Peter.
As far as is possible with a squad that remains injury-affected, Jersey Head Coach Harvey Biljon has juggled his resources, notably in a forward pack that sees six changes from the 13-19 New Year's Day Championship defeat against Ealing Trailfinders.
Skipper Pierce Phillips is back for his first action since being injured in the second league match of the season back in September, and will partner Uili Kolo'ofa'i in the second row. Max Argyle and James Doyle are the starting flankers, alongside ever-present number 8 Nick Haining. Simon Kerrod retains his starting berth in the front row and is joined by fellow prop Sean McCarthy and hooker Jack Macfarlane.
The Reds' back-line is more settled - the only addition sees Jack Cuthbert return at full-back; Ross Adair switches to wing, with Jordan Davies moving to centre to replace the injured Heath Stevens.
There's a new signing selected on the Jersey bench, with fly-half Callum Sheedy (pictured below) drafted in after arriving from Bristol on a two-week loan deal. The 21-year-old played all four of his club's play-off games last May, but has yet to feature for Bristol this season having been injured early in the campaign and only returning to action towards the end of 2016 with two loan appearances for Hartpury College.
"Callum's a very talented player who played an important role in Bristol's play-off success last season," said Biljon. "Injury stopped him from contributing during the early part of this season, but he's worked his way back to fitness and should be an exciting addition to our back-line."
Sheedy, who was born in Cardiff, joins scrum-half Joel Dudley, props Jake Woolmore and Jake Armstrong, hooker Joe Buckle and back rowers Gary Graham and James Freeman on Jersey's bench.
The Islanders have been drawn against Welsh opponents three times in their four previous B&I Cup campaigns. The 2013 trip to Sardis Road in Pontypridd was cancelled in January due to heavy snow, with the Welsh side eventually winning the rearranged fixture 48-17, while in 2014/15 the 'A' XV representing the Scarlets region, playing in the colours of Carmarthen Quins, defeated Jersey 24-9 at Church Bank in Llandovery. Last season the Reds were cruelly denied by a last-minute try by the Newport Gwent Dragons Select XV, losing 30-27 at Pandy Park in Cross Keys.
On returning from Wales, the Reds will play their final group match of this season's B&I the following weekend when Ulster 'A' travel to the Island - kick-off at St Peter will be at 2pm on Saturday January 21st.
Back at St Peter this weekend, Jersey Reds Athletic will play Esher on Saturday at 12noon. The Zoo Shield match is worth double points following the cancellation of the scheduled match earlier in the season.
For the Cardiff Blues team announcement, see HERE
Jersey Reds squad v Cardiff Blues Premiership Select (A) - British & Irish Cup, Pool 1, Saturday January 13th, The Wern, Merthyr Tydfil; k-o 3pm
Pierce Phillips (capt)
Joe Buckle, Jake Woolmore, Jake Armstrong, James Freeman, Gary Graham; Joel Dudley, Callum Sheedy.
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