It’s not quite crunch-time in this season’s Championship Cup, but there’ll be a bite of bite in the late autumn air when Jersey Reds and Doncaster Knights lock horns at Stade Santander International on Saturday.
Both sides are trailing behind unbeaten pool leaders Newcastle Falcons, with the Knights currently ahead of the Reds by virtue of a 32-26 win in the last round. With just two more games to follow, including a testing trip to the north-east to take on the Falcons on their own turf, the Reds go into this weekend’s game knowing that it’s a must-win affair if they are to retain a realistic chance of claiming one of the home quarter-finals available to the four top-ranked sides from the pool stage.
Although they were edged out by the Knights at the start of October in round 3 of the cup, the Reds did achieve a 27-0 win when the men from South Yorkshire visited the Island for a league encounter five weeks ago. This was one of the results that has seen the Reds placed fourth in the Greene King IPA Championship table, six places above their visitors.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon makes six changes to the XV which started the Championship match at Ampthill a fortnight ago, the Reds’ most recent outing - a 38-47 win - before a weekend off, including a debut for new signing Rodney Iona.
The Samoan international, who trained with his new team-mates for the first time on Monday, comes in at inside centre in place of James Newey, who moves to the bench. And there are changes in both half-back positions, with Will Homer and Brendan Cope coming in while Luc Jones and Greg Dyer join the replacements.
The other three changes are to the forwards – one in each row of the scrum. Loose-head props Roy Godfrey and Harry Morley are rotated, with Morley earning the start, and Kyle Hatherell partners Rory Bartle in the second row as Charlie Beckett drops to the bench. Max Argyle starts in the back-row ahead as Conor Joyce makes way.
The match is the first of back-to-back home games at the Stade, with Hartpury University due on the Island a week later for another Championship Cup challenge that will kick off at 3pm.
There’s no game for Jersey Reds Athletic this weekend, but Jersey Reds Women will be in action on home turf on Sunday when they take on Hove.
/*stop press - Nic Dolly selected at No16 - apologies for this late change not being incorporated in the above visual*/
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Doncaster Knights (H) – Championship Cup Pool 2, Round 4/6, Stade Santander International, Saturday November 30th 2019, k-o 3pm
Josh Bainbridge (capt)
Nic Dolly, Roy Godfrey, Leeroy Atalifo, Charlie Beckett, Jake Upfield; Luc Jones, Greg Dyer, James Newey