TWENTY-YEAR-OLD Ben Burnell is set to be handed his first start for Jersey Reds after showing ‘lots of promise’ in training.
The Islanders face 11th-placed Richmond on Saturday [2pm kick-off], in a must-win away game to sustain pressure on RFU Championship leaders Ealing.
The rhetoric ‘our guys are rugby players, not rugby trainers’ has been reiterated all season long by head coach Rob Webber, and fly-half Burnell’s selection – ahead of Russell Bennett – highlights the importance of depth throughout the squad.
‘Ben has been training really well,’ said Webber of the former Wales U20 international, who moved to St Peter at the start of February.
‘He has come to know our system and our way of doing things over the past month and now is a really good time for him to get a go.
‘Depth is vital at this point in the season, with a big block of games ahead. We have always encouraged players to put their hand up for selection and that mentality allows us to move things around from game to game.’
Due to the postponement of the Reds’ clash with Doncaster on 11 March, Jersey will now play on what was due to be their only remaining weekend off this season, on Saturday 8 April, for a run of ten games over as many weekends.
Webber said: ‘It has been a little frustrating for the squad. We had a free weekend, which was then followed by a postponement a couple of weeks later, which has meant our preparations have had to change.
‘The lads have dealt with a fair bit of stop and start and credit to them because they have been superb and very professional about a situation that’s out of their control.’
He added: ‘Richmond gave us a very good game at home and we expect the same travelling there.
‘They always get a good-sized crowd and we are certainly not taking any games for granted at this level.’
One eye will also be on Ealing’s tricky home contest with Cornish Pirates, hoping that the latter can do Jersey a favour as they bid to eat into the gap to the summit.