Jersey Reds will seek to end 2018 on a high note by claiming the scalp of the side ranked second in the Greene King IPA Championship.
The resumption of league action after a six-week break for the Championship Cup sees the Reds striving to stretch the run of six consecutive league wins that has seen them rise from the lower reaches of the Championship table to their current standing of third. Victory over Ealing Trailfinders would almost certainly mean Jersey leap-frogging the Londoners in the table, but it will be a tough challenge; not only have Ealing won seven of their nine league matches so far this season, but history is also on their side - the Reds have won just two of the 10 matches between the sides at this level.
The rivals, who also locked horns in the National Leagues between 2010 and 2012, have already met twice this season in the Championship Cup. It finished one-apiece, with the Reds winning 34-41 at Vallis Way six weeks ago, but then suffering a 16-20 defeat on their home patch. A bonus point win in last Saturday's final pool match (33-0 at home to Richmond) helped Ealing top pool two, just ahead of Jersey who could only manage two tries in a narrow (9-15) win at London Scottish.
The Reds' starting XV shows four changes to the line-up who began last Saturday's cup match. Three of the changes are among the forwards - one in each row of the pack. Charlie Maddison returns at hooker in place of Jack Macfarlane, Dave McKern (a try-scorer against Ealing a fortnight ago) gets the nod at lock ahead of Charlie Beckett - who moves to the bench - and Janco Venter is selected at number 8, with Jake Upfield stepping aside.
The lone change among the backs is the return of Aaron Penberthy, who comes in for Brett Herron and will line up at fly-half against his former club.
The Reds' playing and coaching staff will enjoy a 10-day break over Christmas and New Year before reconvening ahead of back-to-back home Championship fixtures against Nottingham and Bedford on Saturday January 12th and the following Saturday. But thoughts will remain firmly on rugby until Saturday's skirmish is done with.
The Jersey camp was keeping a close eye on developments at Gatwick Airport following news of the disruption to travel on Thursday, but anticipate being able to fly across to the mainland as scheduled this afternoon (Friday).
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Ealing Trailfinders (A) - Greene King IPA Championship, Round 10/22, Saturday December 22nd, Trailfinders Sports Ground, k-o 2pm
Leroy Van Dam
Roy Godfrey (capt)
Nick Selway, Harry Morley, Zi Alexis, Charlie Beckett, Kyle Hatherell; Hilton Mudariki, James Newey