The final home match of 2016 sees Jersey Reds hosting a Christmas party at St Peter and looking to back up a notable British & Irish Cup win at London Scottish last weekend.
The two sides meet in the second instalment of a back-to-back cup double, with the Reds looking to go above the Exiles in the pool 1 table ahead of the last two fixtures in January.
Jersey took the spoils at the Richmond Athletic Ground on Saturday thanks to a powerful second half display, crowned with a late try for Kuki Ma'afu that made the final score 13-22, denying the hosts a losing bonus point. As well as building on this result, the Reds will also be looking to avenge a heavy defeat at Scottish hands when the teams last met at St Peter - the visitors came away victors by 10-36 to leave the home club reeling.
Head Coach Harvey Biljon makes six changes, plus some positional switches, to his starting XV. Following injury to James McKinney, Sam Katz and Jack Cuthbert revert to their preferred positions of fly-half and full-back respectively. Jordan Davies returns in midfield to partner Ma'afu, while Ross Adair takes up the left wing role ahead of Kieran Hardy, who drops to the bench.
In the forwards, the entire front row unit swaps with last weekend's trio as Jake Woolmore, Jack Macfarlane and Jake Armstrong step up from the bench, while James Freeman returns to the back row in place of Gary Graham and will resume the captaincy.
The Reds have a new signing this week, albeit that he is 'cup-tied' and therefore ineligible for this week's match. Centre Heath Stevens has joined the Reds from London Welsh and will be in contention for the Greene KIng IPA Championship visit to Bedford Blues on Boxing Day.
Stevens, 24, (pictured above) spent the first three months of the season at London Welsh having moved to Old Deer Park from Worcester Warriors. He has considerable Championship experience gained during spells at Nottingham and Plymouth Albion, prior to which he was with Coventry for three seasons and a member of the Wasps Academy. He has faced Jersey on six occasions during his career to date, the first time being as a teenager for Coventry in December 2011.
"Heath is a talented player who was very much on our radar last summer when he was leaving Worcester," said Biljon. "It didn't work out then, but we have now been able to finalise a contract and I know he'll be a real asset to our midfield, where our squad has been severely depleted since the start of the season owing to injuries and other factors."
The Reds are looking for a bumper crowd at St Peter for the Friday Night Lights encounter, with the opportunity for supporters to enjoy a Christmas party atmosphere and take advantage of a festive ticket offer that will see members admitted for £5 and non-members for £10. Christmas Carols will be provided courtesy of the Holmchase Singers, plus a number of other festive touches.
The next league action at St Peter will be on the first day of 2017: Ealing Trailfinders will be the visitors for the match that kicks off at 2pm. The Clubhouse will be open to all for a pre-match buffet including curries and lasagne and places can be booked with Club Manager Sean Dunne.
Jersey Reds squad v London Scottish (H) - British & Irish Cup, Pool 1, Friday December 16th, St Peter; k-o 7.45pm
James Freeman (capt)
Joe Buckle, Sean McCarthy, Mark Tampin, Uili Kolo'ofa'i, Nick Haining; Joel Dudley, Kieran Hardy.
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