Jersey Reds' return to action on their home turf sees a determination to re-establish the fortress reputation of Stade Santander International.
The Reds had gone almost 12 months without tasting defeat on home soil in the Greene King IPA Championship before they crash-landed against London Scottish three weeks ago. Now the visit of Doncaster Knights offers a chance of redemption, albeit against historically tough opposition.
The 'Friday Knights Lights' encounter is just the second floodlit match at the Stade this season, and a large crowd is expected as the home side press for their highest-ever Championship finish, aiming to surpass the consecutive fifth places achieved in the past two seasons.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon has made minimal changes to his squad from the line-up that gained an excellent 10-28 win away to Yorkshire Carnegie in their most recent outing. The starting pack and five forward replacements are unchanged, with skipper Jerry Sexton recovering from the knock that forced him from the field at Emerald Headingley midway through the Carnegie clash. /*Stop press: ± Conor Joyce will be on the bench for the Reds, taking the place of Jake Upfield*/
Two new faces come into the back-line: Liam Howley is chosen at scrum-half, with Will Homer moving to the bench; and Apakuki Ma'afu is back in midfield after suspension to partner Mark Best. The return of the Tongan international means some positional tweaks, with James Newey moving out to the wing, and Leroy Van Dam switching to full-back in place of Jason Worrall.
With a couple of recent exceptions, matches between the Reds and the Knights have historically been closely contested, and the British & Irish Cup quarter-final 12 months ago was the first time in 12 meetings (to that point) that the losing side had been more than seven points adrift. Jersey won 22-10 that day, and also claimed a victory at Castle Park on the last day of the Championship season, surviving a late comeback from the hosts to win 26-30. Returning to South Yorkshire in October, the Reds were in fine form and came away with a 22-47 win.
Overall in the encounters since Jersey reached the Championship in 2012, the Reds have seven wins in the fixture to Doncaster's five, with two games drawn.
Two other Reds sides will also be in action this weekend, with the Athletic travelling to Barnes on Saturday for a Zoo Shield encounter, and Jersey Reds Women making the long trek to Dorchester for their National Championship 2 South match on Sunday.
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Link to team-sheet - see HERE
Link to online programme - click HERE
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Doncaster Knights (H) - Greene King IPA Championship Round 16/22, Friday March 1st, Stade Santander International, k-o 7.45pm
Leroy Van Dam
Jerry Sexton (capt)
Jack Macfarlane, Harry Morley, Sam Rodman, Charlie Beckett, ±Conor Joyce; Will Homer, Aaron Penberthy
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