It may not have the longevity of the rugby rivalry between England and Scotland, but Jersey v Ealing matches invariably bring Calcutta Cup levels of intensity.
The Reds and the Trailfinders both trace their origins back to the 1870s, the same decade National Two South as they worked their way up to the second tier of the English league pyramid.
The auld rivals will lock horns at Stade Santander International a couple of hours before the Calcutta Cup match in Edinburgh, and while the earlier game may attract a slightly smaller crowd than the one at Murrayfield, the contest will be a full-throttle one… with not a set of bagpipes to be heard.
Ealing, currently second in the Greene King IPA Championship table, have been the dominant force in encounters against the Reds at this level: Jersey’s 35-7 win on home turf in December 2015 remains their solitary victory in 11 matches, with a further win apiece for each club in the Championship Cup. The first meeting of this season finished 52-38 at Vallis Way in October, with the Reds battling back in the second half of a match that featured 13 tries in all and a half-time score of 33-0.
The Reds will be striving to get the win against their visitors from London to ease the disappointment of a last-gasp defeat against Bedford Blues last weekend, having led their hosts for almost the entire match prior to a converted try in the final play.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon brings four new faces into the starting XV from the line-up that began the match at Goldington Road, as well as two positional switches.
Loan signings Arwel Robson and Connor Edwards both made their debuts from the bench against Bedford, and the Welsh duo come into the side at fly-half and centre respectively. Auguy Slowik starts at wing in place of the injured Leroy Van Dam, while Brendan Cope moves back from fly-half to full-back, replacing Greg Dyer.
The front five of the Reds’ pack is unchanged, but in the back row Jake Upfield comes in at flanker while Kyle Hatherell moves across to number 8 in place of another injury victim, Janco Venter.
Jersey’s bench sees three additions to last week’s squad, with Charlie Beckett, Aaron Penberthy and George Spencer recalled to arms.
Jersey Reds Athletic will also be in action on Saturday, travelling to Havant for a Hampshire Challenge Cup semi-final tie that will kick off at 2pm.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Ealing Trailfinders (H) – Greene King IPA Championship, Round 12/22, Stade Santander International, Saturday February 8th 2020, k-o 2pm
Josh Bainbridge (capt)