‘I have to believe the season is going ahead’ – Jersey Reds coach Biljon

Under 9s squad have a special coaching session, led by Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon and 1st XV coaches Ed Robinson and Neil Tunnah Picture: JON GUEGAN

Although the start of the 2020/21 campaign is still to be officially confirmed, English clubs are already well into their preparations, with Ealing Trailfinders and Saracens clashing earlier this month as part of a three-team pre-season tournament also featuring Doncaster Knights. The Reds, meanwhile, are lining up two pre-season fixtures against Premiership development squads, for mid-February.

Negotiations between the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Championship to cover the costs of Covid-19 testing are believed to still be ongoing. With strict travel constraints to consider as well, the Reds are also waiting to receive the go-ahead from the Government of Jersey regarding what could be twice-weekly testing to enable their season to begin on cue.

‘I’m in a position now where I have to believe the season is going ahead,’ said Biljon, who began pre-season training with his professional squad in August.

‘It looks like the teams in the UK are ready and we’re a little bit behind and we just need to make sure we are prepped and ready. It’s a physical game and we need to make sure that the testing is in place before we start the season.

‘The season is due to start 6 March so we are hoping we can get going but let’s see what happens. We’ve got a couple of pre-season games lined-up but it depends on what unfolds over the next week-to-ten days. We may travel away for them but it’s dependent on the Jersey government’s position on things.’

If the Reds’ league campaign does get under way as planned, it will still mark over a year since their last competitive outing – a 38-3 loss to runaway champions Newcastle Falcons at St Peter.

The long absence has left the players chomping at the bit.

‘Training has gone well,’ Biljon added. ‘We’ve obviously had to adapt a fair amount and the players are just desperate to play. It’s been pretty tough not knowing if it is going ahead or if it isn’t going ahead but overall we’re in a good place to want to get going, just give us the green light and I think the players will pay you back with their performances. Overall, they have been dedicated to training as much as they can be but they still want games.’

Discussing the testing procedures, which could make or break existing plans, Biljon said: ‘We are on a bit of catch up because most of the other teams have started their testing regime, which we haven’t yet, and we have to be tested before we play. Their testing will be picked up by the DCMS and be paid for [if approved]. We need to know if we will get the support from the Jersey government to get the testing as well. It’s almost crunch time.’

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