Dan is the man to fill 10 jersey

DAN RICE will be looking to orchestrate a sixth successive Raiders win tomorrow as he makes his first start as a National Two fly-half.

With Owen Thomas having picked up an injury during last week’s victory at Barnes which is likely to keep him on the sidelines for a couple of weeks, Guernsey’s director of rugby Jordan Reynolds is turning to the youngster to fill the No. 10 shirt for the visit of another in-form side – Henley Hawks – to Footes Lane and the coach revealed he is ‘more than comfortable’ having Rice take on the responsibility.

‘He has a really good skill set and while there may be little parts of his game he needs to develop, he is not going to do that until he starts playing,’ Reynolds said.

‘We were aiming to put him in for the Rochford game earlier this season, but that’s when he picked up Covid so we did not have the opportunity to select him when we wanted to.

‘Once he was clear of Covid, he needed a week or so to get his fitness back up, but he got about 15 minutes’ playing time the week he was back [against Leicester Lions] and then around 35 minutes last weekend against Barnes.

‘He was always going to get more minutes this season because it is about developing these younger guys – you cannot just depend on having someone like Owen available all the time and it just so happens he came off injured last week.’

Reynolds sees many similarities between the two players, with one in particular standing out.

‘Both are very loud on the park, which is exactly what you need from your 10. Both demand that organisation from those around them.

‘Dan is probably a little bit more on the boot and Owen perhaps a little flatter to the line, but both have high skill sets.’

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Other than that enforced change, Reynolds is sticking with the same starting XV while Darrin Bellingham and Charlie Davies return to the bench to face a Hawks team who have won the three games they have played since the tragic loss of their ‘gentle giant’ Dave Hyde who collapsed after their opening game of the season.

Included in those victories are impressive results against Clifton and Esher, both of whom are expected to be competing around the top of the table this season.

‘They will be a pretty tough outfit who are on a good run of form and they are a team who want to be promoted, they have made no secret of that, and we can see in the way they play that they are very emotional and passionate,’ Reynolds said.

‘We picture them as a better version of Barnes because they have similar traits. They go to the catch-and-drive a lot, they play for penalties, kick for touch and keep to that type of pattern.

‘We felt we performed well on the road against Barnes last week, but we need to be able to raise our game again.’

Unlike their only previous home game so far when Footes Lane was wet and extremely windy, Raiders are pleased to see a much more settled weather forecast this weekend and will look to utilise the calm conditions and ‘explore those outer edges’ according to their coach.

‘It should be a fairly open game, not much wind to contend with so it should be a big contest and an even bigger battle,’ said Reynolds.

‘The weather will probably suit us a bit more, but it is going to be a difficult game.

‘It has been a really odd season because every week we look at what’s coming up and every time we think “this is going to be our hardest game yet”, but that is exactly what seems to be happening and we have to keep pushing up.’

Guernsey Raiders v. Henley Hawks kicks off at 3.45pm tomorrow at Footes Lane and will be followed at 5.30pm by St Jacques Vikings v. Henley II.

Guernsey Raiders team

Sam Steventon, Tom Ceillam, Jacob Pinkney, Lewis Hillier, Brad Webb, Oscar Baird, Dom Rice, Doug Horrocks, Charlie Simmons, Dan Rice, Callum Roberts, Ethan Smith, Matt Armstrong, Anthony Armstrong, Joe Andresen. Replacements: Charlie Currie, Darrin Bellingham, Tom Creed/Hugo Culverhouse, Lucas Barker, Charlie Davies.

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