Jersey Reds will complete a run of seven straight away matches, including five league games, with a tough assignment against the team setting the pace in the Greene King IPA Championship so far this season.
Ealing Trailfinders have a perfect record of five bonus point wins in the league, with a positive points difference of 217. Last Saturday’s 10-38 win at the Mennaye Field over Cornish Pirates was the narrowest margin to date.
But while many observers are wondering how the Trailfinders might get on against promotion favourites Saracens next weekend, Jersey Reds will be hoping to upset the formbook at Vallis Way.
The Reds have just one win from their four games to date, although they competed well in the first half of last Saturday’s game against another unbeaten side, Doncaster Knights, before fading in the second half.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon rings the changes several areas of his side, with six new faces coming into the starting line-up following the trip to Yorkshire.
Ex-Munster hooker Eoghan Clarke will make his debut in the front row alongside Roy Godfrey and Dan Richardson, with the latter moving across to the tight-head position. And two recent signings from Worcester Warriors will also make debuts elsewhere in the pack: James Scott in the second row and Matti Williams at number 8.
The Reds’ back-line is slightly more settled, but two international threequarters are brought in by Biljon: Tongan Apakuki Ma’afu at centre, and Namibian Lesley Klim on the wing, the latter also making his league debut after injury in pre-season and the onset of the pandemic soon after he originally arrived in Jersey in March 2020.
If the home side don’t recognise many of the visiting squad, it would be as a result of widespread change since the sides last met 14 months ago, when Ealing won a Championship Cup quarter-final on their home ground. Godfrey, fly-half Brendan Cope and replacement Josh Bainbridge are the only survivors, having also featured in a 24-28 league loss to the Trailfinders on home turf a fortnight earlier.
The Reds will be trying to claim just their second Championship win over Ealing at the 12th attempt in matches dating back to 2013.
Saturday’s match will be streamed live, with access costing £10 and available via the Championship website. The following weekend the Reds will play their first match of the season at Stade Santander International, when Nottingham will be the visitors. The game will kick-off at 3pm on Saturday April 24th.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Ealing Trailfinders – Greene King IPA Championship, Round 6/11, Trailfinders Sports Ground, Vallis Way, Saturday April 17th 2021, k-o 1pm (* = debut)
Brendan Owen; Lesley Klim *, Scott Van Breda, Apakuki Ma’afu, Darren Atkins; Brendan Cope, Max Green; Roy Godfrey, Eoghan Clarke *, Dan Richardson, James Scott *, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, Lewis Wynne (capt), Matt Williams *
Jack Macfarlane , Ollie Dawe, Jack Higgins, Zak Farrance, Tim Grey, James Elliott, Josh Bainbridge, Jack Roberts