FORMER Exeter and London Irish lock Jerry Sexton is among four debutants named in Jersey’s starting XV for the first of two Siam Cup clashes in seven days.
The Irishman (below), who played Championship rugby for the Reds between 2017-19, will start in the second row at St Peter tomorrow afternoon, having trained with Myles Landick’s Athletic side throughout winter and spring.
Now a States of Jersey policeman, Sexton – the brother of Ireland captain Jonny – will be joined by another former pro in the shape of Aaron Penberthy, who starts at fly-half.
Ben Le Chevalier is set for his Siam debut with the number 13 shirt on his back, while George Daniels and Jake Bates could both earn their first caps off the bench.
The Reds have sought to end the annual uproar from Guernsey by ridding their Siam squad of club professionals, although Jersey-born hooker Harry Doolan, who is set to appear in the Championship Cup semi-final at Stade Santander tonight, has been named as a provisional replacement due to a front-row shortage.
‘There is a question mark over Harry,’ said head coach Landick, who also considered bringing home-grown hooker Luke Stratford back from Hartpury. ‘He may be available, he may not be. We’ll just have to suck it and see, purely for the reason that he’s playing for the first-team [tonight].’
Unlike Penberthy, Sexton has not had the opportunity to play for Athletic since his return to the Island, but his influence on the training field has not gone unnoticed.
‘Jerry was in the squad twice for us when we had games cancelled at late notice,’ Landick explained. ‘He hasn’t played but having him around has really helped preparation. He knows his rugby and is a voice of calm. It’s great to have another leader in the pack, as well as Tim [Corson, captain].
‘Aaron is another handy player to have in your squad and he knows the score when it comes to the Siam. He knows what it takes to win the game.’
Victory on home soil would represent a third in a row for the Caesareans, in what will be the delayed 2021 Siam Cup. The 2022 edition will be played at Footes Lane on Saturday 21 May.
‘Our focus is just on this first game,’ Landick added. ‘I don’t know if it’s an advantage or disadvantage being at home first, to be honest, but either way we know it will be a tough game.
‘In November [delayed 2020 Siam] we had a couple of pro boys in. We don’t have that now and we know it will be a difficult task to win, but we completely believe in our lads’ ability. We have come on leaps and bounds in attack and in other aspects of our game and hopefully we can take those into the weekend. We play a different brand of rugby to what we used to.
‘Playing in a home Siam is very special and we’ve told the lads to enjoy and embrace the day. They are all buzzing. They really can’t wait to get the Jersey shirt on and run out in front of a big crowd.’
Early estimates suggest that over 2,000 tickets have already been sold for the triple-header, which will begin with the veterans’ Nash Cup at 10.30am. The Women’s Siam begins at 12.30pm.