Jersey Reds head back to London this weekend hoping to kick-start their season against old rivals Richmond.
The two sides, who first encountered each other in a league outing almost two decades ago, will run out at the Richmond Athletic Ground; both are seeking their first win of the delayed 2020/21 season.
While Richmond have suffered defeats against Hartpury University and Cornish Pirates in their opening Greene King IPA Championship encounter, the Reds have had just one league outing, beaten 45-13 by promotion favourites Saracens last weekend.
Saturday’s match is nominally a home game for Jersey, but has been switched to London as a result of ongoing restrictions on the Channel Island related to Covid-19.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon has resisted the urge to make major changes to his starting XV, with just two new faces and a positional switch from his previous selection.
Jack Macfarlane comes in at hooker in place of TJ Harris after featuring as a try-scoring replacement last weekend, while new signing Darren Atkins will start at wing after arriving on a season-long loan from Bath Rugby. Atkins’ arrival means Brendan Owen moves into the centre alongside Dan Barnes.
Four players are in line for their Reds’ debut from the bench: hooker George Edgson, lock Macauley Cook, and backs Bader Pretorius and Jack Roberts.
The teams will be meeting for the first time since 2018/19, when the Reds had the upper hand in a brace of Championship fixtures, as well as claiming wins in two Championship Cup encounters.
The 2018/19 season was the fifth season the clubs had been in the same league over the past 20 years. In 2002/03, Richmond were champions of London 3 South-West (level 7), defeating the Reds 3-32 at St Peter and 30-13 at the RAG as part of a run of 83 successive league wins.
In 2010/11 it was Jersey who gained promotion, from National Two South – honours between the two sides finished even, with Jersey winning 29-9 at St Peter having lost 25-14 at the RAG.
Fixtures between the two sides book-ended the 2016/17 season. Jersey scored seven tries at the RAG on the opening day of the season and won 16-41; the Easter return fixture was a closer-run affair, with Ross Adair’s 77th-minute interception sealing a 28-17 victory for the home team.
In 2017/18, the Reds were well-beaten at the RAG during the early weeks of the season, the Londoners winning 23-14 on home turf; each side registered a brace of converted tries, but Rob Kirby’s three penalties made the difference. Kirby also landed three penalties in January 2018, but the Reds emerged narrowly victorious by 10-9 thanks to a 74th-minute try by scrum-half Kieran Hardy.
The Reds will travel to Luton Airport by charter flight with the club’s Official Airline Partner Blue Islands. Members of the travelling party are subject to strict Covid-19 protocols – this includes tests during the days leading up to the game and multiple further tests following their return to Jersey.
An edition of the Reds' successful and innovative e-programme will be produced for the game, with a link available via social media channels during Friday afternoon.
The game will be played behind closed doors as a result of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, but will be streamed live, with access costing £10 per subscriber and available via www.championshiprugby.co.uk/live-streams
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Richmond (H*) – Greene King IPA Championship, Round 2/10, Richmond Athletic Ground, Saturday March 20th 2021, k-o 1.30pm (* = debut)
Tom Williams; George Spencer, Brendan Owen, Dan Barnes, Darren Atkins *; Brendan Cope, James Elliott; Dan Richardson, Jack Macfarlane, Ciaran Parker, Zak Farrance, Sean O’Connor, Max Argyle, Lewis Wynne (capt), Kyle Hatherell.
George Edgson *, Roy Godfrey, Zei Alexis, Macauley Cook *, Tim Grey, Cameron Nordli Kelemeti, Bader Pretorius *, Jack Roberts *