Jersey Reds’ opening match of the 2021/22 season will have an international flavour as the Island side head south to take on French Pro D2 side Rugby Club Vannes.
The pre-season ‘test match’ will be the third meeting between the clubs after previous encounters in 2017 and 2018. The first match, staged in the Breton coastal town of Arzon, was won 38-14 by the hosts, while the Reds gained revenge on home turf a year later with a 27-17 victory (pictured above and below).
The match will take place at the 9,600-capacity Stade de la Rabine, where RCV have played since 2014, on Friday August 20th, kicking off at 7.30pm local time.
The Reds squad will travel as a bubble during the trip, taking a charter flight to Rennes and complying with all necessary Covid-19 protocols.
It will be the first chance for Jersey Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon to see his new squad in action after pre-season training started at Stade Santander International at the start of July.
Following the Breton trip, the Reds will complete their pre-season schedule with back-to-back matches against Gallagher Premiership opposition. Leicester Tigers will run out at Stade Santander International on Friday August 27th (k-o 5pm), and a week later the Reds will take on Sale Sharks on Friday September 3rd (k-o 7.45pm).
RC Vannes were formed in 1950. The club reached the third level of the French domestic game – Fédérale 1 – in 2006 and a decade later gained promotion to Pro D2. In their first season at level two, the Breton side finished 11th of the 16 clubs in the division, improving this to 10th in 2017/18 and then fourth in 2018/19, when they reached the semi-finals of the promotion play-offs before losing to Brive.
In 2019/20 RCV were eighth in the Pro D2 rankings when the league was annulled as a result of Covid-19, while last season they won 21 and drew two of their 30 league games to finish second: this earned a play-off semi-final against Biarritz, with the Basque visitors – eventually promoted to the Top 14 – claiming a dramatic 33-34 victory thanks to a converted try at the death.
Although the majority of the Vannes’ players are French-qualified, the squad includes twice-capped English full-back Nick Abendanon (34), who moved to Brittany last year after six seasons with Clermont Auvergne and – previously – nine years at Bath.
The Head Coach of Vannes is 47-year-old Jean-Noël Spitzer, a former back row player for the club who took up the coaching reins after retiring in 2005, with RCV promoted to Fédérale 1 at the end of his first season in charge. New Zealander Gerard Fraser is the club’s Assistant Coach, having joined the club in 2018.