It's great to welcome back Championship rugby to Stade Santander International after our first real Christmas break for many years. I hope everybody had a wonderful festive period and that you are ready for some great rugby in 2019!
We are delighted to welcome back to the island our old friends and rivals from Nottingham Rugby. Nottingham's season so far is almost a mirror image of our own. We are fifth against Nottingham's sixth and each with the same number of wins. The Reds are one point ahead by dint of a few more bonus points so far. Both teams have also made it through to the quarter final stages of the Championship Cup
The highlight of the season to date for the visitors was surely the 42-27 demolition of Ealing Trailfinders at Lady Bay under the lights back in October. Ironically, Nottingham will visit Ealing for their quarter final game in early February.
The Reds meantime have hit a rich vein of form, after a tough start to the campaign. And of course we were recently awarded "Sky Sports' International Try of the Year" for Auguy's finish of a great team try scored in the outstanding win over London Irish. (His second in that game was none too shabby either!)
However, as we all know, the past counts for nought in sport and the game this weekend will be like starting anew. I know the boys are chomping at the bit and want to put in a great performance in front of the Reds' supporters.
By the way, we have a new stock of cowbells in the shop. Make sure you have yours ready for the game!
Come on you Reds!
Mark Morgan, Chairman
An impressive first half of the season has left Nottingham well-placed to achieve their best finish in the Greene King IPA Championship since 2012-13.
Since finishing second behind Newcastle Falcons in the league table in the first season that Jersey Reds were a Championship club, and losing out to Bedford in the play-off semi-final, the Green and Whites have been ranked between fifth and 10th at the end of the season.
The season may have begun on a losing note, with defeats to Bedford and London Irish, but since then Nottingham have found their stride, with just one further league defeat in eight outings. The stand-out result was the 42-27 home win over Ealing Trailfinders; most recently they drew 15-all with Midlands' rivals Coventry just before Christmas.
Although they lost four out of six matches in the pool stage of the Championship Cup, an away win at Doncaster in the final round was enough to see them reach the quarter-finals thanks to a higher tally of tries to the Knights after both teams finished with 12 points.
Last season, Nottingham and the Reds drew 19-apiece at Lady Bay in December and then contested a see-saw game at Stade Santander International in April. The visitors led 7-29 after half an hour, but thereafter failed to trouble the scorers again, while the Reds racked up no fewer than eight tries to finish the end-of-season frolic winners by 50-29.
In total, Jersey have seven wins to Nottingham's four in the 12 encounters to date, with one draw. Only four of the 12 games have been won by the home side.
Nottingham RFC was formed in 1877 by former Rugby School pupil Alick Birkin, who returned to his home city and recruited some friends to play the game he'd enjoyed at the school where William Webb Ellis invented it some 50 years previously.
The Birkin family were involved in Nottingham rugby until the mid 1950s, including the donation of land at Ireland Avenue, Beeston, in 1904 by Alick's brother Leslie - this was the club's home for more than a century until it was sold in 2006.
Nottingham are now in their 15th straight season at tier two - only Bedford (19 seasons) and Cornish Pirates (16) have been Championship-level clubs for longer.
The 1980s was a golden era, with Nottingham runners-up in the National Merit Table in 1985/86 and having no less than five England caps during the decade: Gareth Rees, Rob Andrew, Brian Moore, Chris 'Swing Low' Oti and Simon Hodgkinson, as well as the Scotland lock Chris Gray.
Meet the opposition
Green and Whites’ Head Coach, Neil Fowkes devoted his entire playing career - around 200 senior appearances - to Nottingham Rugby, and in total has been part of the club for more than 30 years having first joined as a mini rugby player. The 2018/19 Greene King IPA Championship is Fowkes’ inaugural season at the helm of the Green and Whites, and Nottingham supporters will be hoping for a long and successful reign for the club legend.
Joining the coaching set up at Nottingham upon his retirement in 2011, the 38-year-old former prop has worked his way up the ranks to leading the team. Having learned his craft from fantastic coaches before him, he has implemented his own methods at the club. Joined by Andi Kyriacou (forwards) and Alex O’Dowd (backs), the team has made a positive start to the season.
Jones joined the Green and Whites in the summer of 2018. Having played for Ealing Trailfinders since 2014, he was a key player for the London club as they ascended to the Championship in 2015.
At 6 ft 5 ins tall and just over 18 stone in weight, 24-year-old Jones is a huge physical presence in the Green and Whites' forwards. He has established himself as a key member of the Nottingham pack playing at second row. A fantastic defensive player and strong going forward, his versatility is a real benefit to Neil Fowkes’ first team.
Jones' twin brother Carwyn also formerly played for Ealing, but now plies his trade in Brittany with RC Vannes in the second tier of the French leagues, and has twice played against the Reds in pre-season matches.
Veenendaal signed from Bedford Blues in the summer of 2015 and was brought in to replace the now-retired scrum-half Sean Romans. The South African-born 28-year-old played 150-plus games for the Blues dating from 2010 and has a wealth of experience.
Veenendaal originally began playing in the Northampton Saints academy system before moving to Bedford, which led to him being offered a professional contract. He has a good turn of pace, superb passing ability and an excellent eye for the line. As one of the more senior members of the team, and a vice-captain, his influence across the club, on and off the field, has contributed significantly to the success Nottingham have had so far this season