Jersey Reds’ attempts to snap a two-game losing streak will involve a line-up that sees significant change to the one fielded for the club’s first game of 2022 last weekend.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon brings seven new faces into his starting XV for the trip to Ampthill and also makes a further positional switch, with form, injuries and rotation all factors contributing to the shake-up.
The Reds were beaten 19-35 on home turf by league leaders Doncaster Knights last Saturday, having also suffered defeat in their previous outing at Bedford on Boxing Day, but remain third in the Championship standings.
The majority of the changes are among the back-line. Injuries in training have left Ryan Olowofela and Ryan Hutler unavailable, with Jack Roberts replacing the former at outside centre and Brendan Owen moving across to the wing. Tom Pittman makes his second start for the Reds in the fly-half berth vacated by Owen, while James Elliott starts at scrum-half ahead of James Mitchell having scored two tries against Doncaster.
After impressing as a first-half replacement last weekend for the injured Harry Simmons, Scott Van Breda retains in the full-back role from the start.
The Reds’ starting pack has been a more settled unit this season, but there are three changes to the unit who’ll take on Ampthill. Luke Yendle is selected at tight-head, as Steve Longwell drops to the bench, while Alex Humfrey and Tim Grey, both introduced from the bench last weekend, earn starts.
The Jersey bench includes back row man Alun Lawrence, who is set for his debut less than a week after joining the Reds on loan for the remainder of the season from Cardiff Rugby.
Biljon will be pleased to be back on the touchline this weekend following a one-match ban resulting from critical comments made about the officiating in the game on Boxing Day.
The Reds and the ‘Mob’ have met three times previously in the Championship. In November 2019 at the Grange Land Rover Bowl, the Reds held a narrow 17-19 lead at the break, and with an hour gone it was 31-33, but the visitors then pulled clear and finished winners by 38-47.
When the 2020/21 season finally kicked off, the two sides played out a lower-scoring encounter last May at Ampthill, with the Reds grabbing a try bonus point during the last play to make the final score 14-29.
Ampthill had the better of the most recent encounter at Stade Santander International in October before the home side battled back from a 5-17 deficit with two tries in the last 10 minutes to snatch a draw.
The two clubs first crossed paths in 2009/10, when they were champions of their respective divisions at level 5, then referred to as National 3, and after victorious semi-finals were paired on the grandest of rugby stages – Twickenham. Jersey claimed the silverware with a 21-12 victory.
The teams met in a pre-season friendly at St Peter in August 2010, with Jersey winning 26-14, and again six years later with a similar margin of victory for the home side: 35-22.
Unfortunately this weekend’s scheduled fixture between Jersey Reds Athletic and Ampthill has been cancelled, however Jersey Reds Women will have their first outing of the year on Saturday, when they travel to Lewes (k-o 1.45pm).
The next 1st XV at Stade Santander International will see the Reds take on Richmond on Saturday January 29th, with kick-off at 2pm. Tickets must are available and must be bought online in advance - LINK
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Ampthill & District (A) – RFU Championship match 13/20, Grange Jaguar/ Land Rover Bowl, Saturday January 22nd 2022, k-o 1.30pm (* = debut)
Scott Van Breda; Brendan Owen, Jack Roberts, Jordan Holgate, Will Brown; Tom Pittman, James Elliott.
James Flynn, Eoghan Clarke, Luke Yendle, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, Alex Humfrey, Lewis Wynne (capt), Tim Grey.
Harry Doolan, Roy Godfrey, Steve Longwell, Tom Everard, Alun Lawrence*, Max Argyle; James Mitchell, Sam Leeming.
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.