Jersey Reds conclude their fifth season in the Greene King IPA Championship tomorrow seeking the club's best finish at this level.
The Reds take on Richmond FC at St Peter - kick-off is at 3pm - aiming to maintain their current position of fifth in the Championship table, which would follow sixth place last season and seventh in 2014/15.
An entirely-new starting XV is selected for the Easter Saturday finale, with Head Coach Harvey Biljon giving opportunities to many of the players who have had little or no game-time during the Reds recent winning run, which spanned 10 games prior to last weekend's 24-20 defeat to Doncaster Knights.
A number of players who drop out of the squad have been rested ahead of the British & Irish Cup Final next Friday in Cork, when the Reds will take on Munster 'A'. However Biljon said the Richmond game provided opportunities for some players to force their way into cup final contention.
"There's an opportunity for a lot of guys to put in a performance that leads to them getting involved next week," he said. "Everyone wants to be part of the cup final, and the squad for Munster isn't set in stone - there are some tight calls, which this game will influence."
All seven of the Reds replacements from last weekend take up starting berths, including the front row trio of Jake Armstrong, a late try-scorer against his old club, Nick Selway and Sean McCarthy, who will captain the side. At second row, Uili Kolo'ofa'i makes a rare start in what will be his 50th appearance for the Island side, alongside Nick Campbell. James Voss and Max Argyle are joined in the back row by Forwards Coach Alex Rae, who will make his third appearance of the season.
"Alex keeps himself very fit and has always said he's available if required, which comes about as our regular back row have played a lot of games in recent months," said Biljon. "He did an excellent job when called on earlier in the season, so I've no concerns about his ability to step up."
In the backs, Brendan Cope partners Joel Dudley at half-back, the former continuing his comeback from injury that saw him out of action for four months prior to a late appearance off the bench last weekend. George Eastwell and Lewis Robling pair up in the midfield, while the back three is comprised of wings Rich Lane and Ross Adair, plus Sam Katz at full-back.
Four members of last weekend's starting XV will report for duty on the bench: prop Jake Woolmore, lock Dave McKern, back row man Nick Haining and threequarter Kuki Ma'afu. They are joined by hooker Jack Macfarlane, prop Mark Tampin and scrum-half Sami Fisilau.
The Reds know they will face a stern test in a Richmond side who have adjusted well to life in the Championship after a tough baptism in which the London side lost eight straight games, including a 16-41 defeat at Jersey's hands on the opening day of the season, when the Reds upped the ante in the second half having led by 9-10 at the break. Since breaking their league duck in mid-November with a 16-17 victory against ground-mates London Scottish, Richmond have achieved four more wins, including a last-gasp thriller against Cornish Pirates by 35-32 to ensure they moved about Rotherham Titans, who have no game this weekend, in the end-of-season rankings.
The two clubs have met in two previous league campaigns. In 2002/03, Richmond were champions of London Three South-West, defeating the Reds 3-32 at St Peter and 30-13 at the RAG as part of a run of 83 successive league wins. In 2010/11 it was Jersey who gained promotion from National Two South - honours between the two sides finished even, with Jersey winning 29-9 at St Peter having lost 25-14 at the RAG.
The home side are hoping for a large crowd for the season's final league match, with the numbers expected to be boosted by many of the young players who earlier in the day will have been taking part in the Easter Rugby Festival, which takes place at Les Quennevais and features Jersey teams taking on a number of visiting sides from England and France.
Once the Richmond game concludes, attention will turn to the British & Irish Cup Final, to be played at Irish Independent Park in Cork next Friday evening. The Reds have arranged two charter flights and a small number of seats remain available for those who want to witness this historic occasion in the flesh. There will also be a live screening of the game back to the Clubhouse at St Peter - details of this event will be published shortly, while charter flight info is HERE
Jersey Reds squad v Richmond FC (H) - Greene King IPA Championship, Round 22, Saturday April 15th, St Peter; k-o 3pm
Sean McCarthy (capt)
Jack Macfarlane, Jake Woolmore, Mark Tampin, Dave McKern, Nick Haining; Sami Fisilau, Kuki Ma'afu.
29 Sep 2023
New account aims to channel offers of support from 'rugby family'