Reds plot an ‘innovative’ Ealing outing approach for

HARVEY BILJON admits the thought of a home Championship game in eight days’ time is filling his squad with excitement, although he insists there has been no deviation from preparing for a ‘huge challenge’ at Ealing this weekend.

Jersey Reds :Apakuki Ma'afu with ball Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30647651)
Jersey Reds :Apakuki Ma'afu with ball Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30647651)

Jersey Reds will welcome Nottingham on 24 April for what will be their first clash at St Peter since February 2020, but they must first negotiate the increasingly difficult task of taking league points away from Vallis Way.

Trailfinders – bank-rolled by multi-millionaire owner Mike Gooley – are targeting Premiership rugby at the earliest opportunity and currently sit top of the second tier with five wins from five.

Biljon, Reds’ director of rugby, said: ‘We’re one game away from a home game, which is exciting, but first we have to focus on a huge challenge at Ealing. They’re a club with clear intentions of pushing Saracens for promotion ­– I wouldn’t even call it an ambition any more – and we know it will be tough to combat the strength they’ve got in their squad.

‘We’ve seen their power game but we’ve analysed their last few games and have come up with innovative ideas to put them under pressure.’

New signing Adam Nicol, who made his Reds debut against Doncaster Knights last week, has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a severe hamstring tear, leaving Biljon short on options up front and scraping around elsewhere too. However, he does have enough of his forward contingent available for a six-two split on the bench, in preparation for an attritional battle, with former Ireland U20s hooker Eoghan Clarke one of three players set for a debut in the pack. Worcester Warriors loanees James Scott and Matti Williams also come into the second and back rows, respectively, while Apakuki Ma’afu is set for his first competitive start in almost two years. Riddled by injuries of late, including an ACL tear last season and an ankle strain this term, the former Tonga international has not been deployed from the off since facing Guernsey in the Siam Cup on 11 May 2019.

‘This sort of game suits Ma’afu.’ Biljon added.

Jersey Reds (1-15, provisional): Roy Godfrey, Eoghan Clarke, Dan Richardson, James Scott, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, Lewis Wynne, Matti Williams; Max Green, Brendan Cope; Darren Atkins, Apakuki Ma’afu, Scott Van Breda, Lesley Klim, Brendan Owen.

Replacements: Jack Macfarlane, Ollie Dawe, Jack Higgins, Zak Farrance, Tim Grey, Josh Bainbridge, James Elliott, Jack Roberts.

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