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Reds return to action for new year

14/01/2022

After 20 days’ desperation to get back into action after a frustrating loss, Jersey Reds are bursting to get back into action for the first time in 2022 this weekend.

As if the chance to return to competitive action on their home turf at Stade Santander International wasn’t enough, the Jersey side have the chance to host the side who sat top of the Championship pile as Auld Lang Syne was crooned.

Doncaster Knights are the visitors to the Island, with the prospect that the two sides will renew a rivalry as strong as any in the second tier over the past decade.

The visitors from Yorkshire are in great form, with eight wins from their last nine games taking them to the top of the league and laying down a serious challenge to Ealing Trailfinders for promotion to the Gallagher Premiership.

Jersey Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon will not be involved in his squad’s match-day preparations as a result of receiving a one-match touchline ban from an independent disciplinary panel for a breach of the RFU's Rule 5.12 – conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union and the game. This follows comments made by Biljon to the media after the Boxing Day defeat by Bedford Blues. The panel's full judgement is expected to be published later today, and a statement has been issued by Jersey Reds.

With Head Coach Rob Webber assuming temporary charge, the Reds’ squad features a much-changed back-line in which only two players – left-wing Will Brown and inside-centre Jordan Holgate – will wear the same shirts as in the 28-19 defeat by Bedford. There is also the chance to welcome back two players who have recovered from long-term injuries.

The Reds’ squad features a much-changed back-line in which only two players – left-wing Will Brown and inside-centre Jordan Holgate – will wear the same shirts as in the 28-19 defeat by Bedford Blues on Boxing Day. There is also the chance to welcome back two players who have recovered from long-term injuries.

Ryan Hutler will make his competitive debut on the wing for the Reds almost 18 months after first landing on the Island, his career having been interrupted first by the coronavirus pandemic and then by serious injury in the pre-season contest against Cornish Pirates last February.

Hutler’s selection means a move inside for Ryan Olowofela, who partners Holgate in midfield, while further changes involve the half-back pairing. James Mitchell will wear number 9, while Brendan Owen takes over from Sam Leeming at fly-half, with Harry Simmons slotting in at full-back.

There are no changes to the starting Jersey pack; as you were.

The return of Scott Van Breda for the first time since September is the stand-out feature of the Reds’ bench, which also includes scrum-half James Elliott and six forwards.

The Reds will be keen for victory, partly to maintain a decent unbeaten run of seven games, and also to snap a run of three straight losses at Doncaster hands.

The trio of recent encounters all took place in Yorkshire: a 38-10 win for Donny in February 2020, followed in April of this year when a converted Kyle Evans try soon after half-time was the final act of scoring in a game that finished 22-10 to the Knights.

In the fourth round of this season’s Championship the Knights led 18-7 at one point, were pegged back to 24-all in the closing stages but seized the win thanks to a 78th-minute penalty from Sam Olver.

Overall the clubs have played a total of 21 league and cup encounters since 2012, with 10 wins to the Island side, nine to the Yorkshiremen and two draws.

There has been considerable movement in both directions between the two sides in recent years, although the number of former players has reduced slightly this season. But Jersey’s Jack Roberts and James Mitchell are both former Knights, while Mark Best is a regular in the Doncaster midfield and Connor Edwards was briefly a Red during a loan spell from Welsh parent side Dragons. There’ll also be a chance for Steve Boden to make a return to the Island after four years as a player and coach between 2012 and 2016.

Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Doncaster Knights (H) – RFU Championship match 12/20, Stade Santander International, Saturday January 15th 2022, k-o 3pm (* = competitive debut)

Backs (15-9)
Harry Simmons; Ryan Hutler*, Ryan Olowofela, Jordan Holgate, Will Brown; Brendan Owen, James Mitchell.

Forwards (1-8)
James Flynn, Eoghan Clarke, Steve Longwell, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, Max Argyle, Lewis Wynne (capt), Wes White.

Replacements (16-23)
Harry Doolan, Huw Owen, Jack Higgins, Tom Everard, Alex Humfrey, Tim Grey; James Elliott, Scott Van Breda.

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