Jersey Reds set out for their first game of 2023 knowing that their ‘top-two’ status in the Championship leaves a target on their back.
Opponents and hosts Coventry have had a decent first half to their league campaign, losing just three of their eleven games to date to lie third in the table, just one place and eight points behind the Reds.
The Island side suffered their first league defeat of the season in their most recent outing, beaten 43-22 by leaders Ealing on Christmas Eve. The Londoners went into 2023 with a maximum haul of 50 points but have since suffered a reverse thanks for a last-gasp defeat at Caldy last weekend, leaving a two-point gap between first and second.
After a festive break, followed by a week-and-a-half back in training, Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon and his coaching team have elected to make minimal changes to the squad, with 21 of the players selected to face Ealing back on duty, albeit with some ‘to and fro’ between the starting XV and the bench.
James Elliott will start at scrum-half in the only change affecting the backs, with James Mitchell switching to the bench.
In the front row, Coventry-born TJ Harris returns as starting hooker, alongside Adam Nicol as tight-head prop, with Eoghan Clarke and Steve Longwell taking up spots on the bench. And there’s a change in the back row, with Max Argyle missing out due to injury and recent signing Hallam Chapman called up for his second start since landing in Jersey in mid-November.
The other change to the squad involves second-row cover from the bench, with James Scott taking the number 19 shirt from Hamish Bain.
Supporters back in Jersey and others unable to make it to Coventry will be able to watch the game online, as it will be streamed free-of-charge via the Championship website - see LINK. Prior to kick-off a minute’s silence will be held to honour one of Coventry’s most renowned rugby sons: former England winger David Duckham, who died last weekend aged 76.
The rugby history between Jersey and Coventry dates back to a Channel Islands’ tour by the Midlands club in 1956, and paths crossed again more than half a century later when the sides played a brace of games in National 1, the Reds winning on both occasions, including the 13-37 success at Butts Park Arena that sealed promotion to the Championship in April 2012.
After a six-year break from competitive encounters – during which time Cov made three pre-season visits to Jersey – the clubs met for the first time in the Championship in September 2018, with the Blue-and-Whites winning 20-15 on their home patch. The Covid interruption and the vagaries of the fixture computer meant that the sides have only met once at the BPA over the past four-and-a-half years: a thumping 38-66 win for the Reds in the final league match of last season.
Cov have actually enjoyed a better record against the Reds while on their travels, with three wins from the five competitive matches between the sides at Stade Santander International, including a 17-20 win in the Championship Cup semi-final played last May.
The next home action for the Reds will see them host London Scottish on Saturday January 21st, with kick-off at 3pm
Jersey Reds squad v Coventry Rugby (A) – 2022/23 RFU Championship, game 12/22, Butts Park Arena, Saturday January 14th, k-o 3pm
Brendan Owen; Ben Woollett, Alex McHenry, Jordan Holgate, Tomi Lewis; Russell Bennett, James Elliott.
Sam Grahamslaw, TJ Harris, Adam Nicol, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, James Dun, Lewis Wynne (capt), Hallam Chapman.
Eoghan Clarke, Greg McGrath, Steve Longwell, James Scott, Tim Grey; James Mitchell, Charlie Powell, Will Brown.
18 May 2023
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