Getting ready for what is their only home outing of this month, Jersey Reds are determined to ensure the fifth of November at St Peter is an occasion to remember.
Having lost their last two Greene King IPA Championship fixtures on home turf, the Reds are looking to deliver a win for the St Peter faithful against old rivals Cornish Pirates. It won't be easy against the team lying fifth in the Championship table, just as has been the case for the Cornishmen's last three visits to the Island; Jersey have won on each occasion by the same margin - just two points.
As well as the prospect of some fireworks during the match to coincide with Guy Fawkes, there'll be some sparkling silverware on display in the shape of the RBS 6 Nations trophy, part of a three-day tour with one of the Reds' major sponsors. And tributes will be paid before kick-off to a stalwart of Jersey RFC, Barrie Stead, who died two weeks ago - Barrie will be honoured with a minute's applause before the game kicks off.
Jersey's Head Coach Harvey Biljon is up against his former club, and has been cheered by news from the treatment room, where there's almost been room to swing a cat this week for the first time in ages.
Flanker Gary Graham, out since the first week of September, and scrum-half Sami Fisilau are passed fit and are the only two changes to the Reds' starting XV from the battling display at Headingley last Friday, when the Islanders pushed unbeaten Yorkshire Carnegie all the way, gaining two bonus points from a 35-29 defeat.
Continuity in selection has been a rare commodity for Biljon this season, but this week he's been able to name 12 players in the same starting positions, with skipper James Freeman moving across the back row to accommodate Graham's return. Some players, such as hooker Jack Macfarlane, lock James Voss and centre George Eastwell, were forced to wait for their opportunities in the opening weeks of the season, but have each taken their chance and kept their place.
Three players have been ever-present in the Jersey starting XV thus far this season: wing/full-back Ross Adair, centre Regan King and number eight Nick Haining; the Australian back row man will make his 50th competitive appearance for the Reds.
Another player back from injury is a former Cornish Pirate, hooker Joe Buckle, who has been out of action for the last five weeks through injury but will take a place on the bench.
The Reds' first-ever Championship match was against the Pirates at St Peter, with the visitors gaining a 6-20 win in September 2012. But since then Jersey have won three time in their back yard: 27-25 in November 2013 courtesy of a last-gasp Niall O'Connor penalty; 28-26 in April 2015 thanks to Buckle's late try and an Aaron Penberthy conversion; and 17-15 in September 2015 when the home side held off a Pirates' fightback.
Following this weekend's game, the Reds' players will have some time off before returning to action with back-to-back away games against Rotherham Titans and London Irish on the last two weekends of November. Championship action returns to St Peter after a four-week break when Doncaster Knights are the visitors on Saturday December 3rd (kick-off 2.30pm).
Jersey Reds squad v Cornish Pirates (H) - Greene King IPA Championship, Saturday November 5th, St Peter; k-o 3pm
James Freeman (capt)
Joe Buckle, Sean McCarthy, Jake Armstrong, Uili Kolo'ofa'i, Max Argyle; Kieran Hardy, Lewis Robling.
17 Nov 2022
Old rivals both seek to stretch start-of-season winning run to 10 games