The pros outweigh the cons
JORDAN REYNOLDS is not one to shy away from explanations.
Knowing that there will be a few eyebrows raised from onlookers outside the Raiders camp at the team selection for today’s trip to National Two South leaders Rams, with eight changes made to the starting XV who beat Clifton and several big names rested, the Guernsey coach needed no second invitation to put forward his case.
‘It’s an exciting opportunity to get these guys on the pitch so they can show what they can do,’ Reynolds said.
‘A lot of guys have been around since the start of the season, but so far we have kept faith with the players we know as we have made the step up.
‘Against Rams, who are top of the table, we have looked at it as if what do we have to lose this weekend? Coming off the back of three excellent performances, if you take into account the Redruth game as well as the back-to-back wins, we have an opportunity to show the depth is there in the squad.
‘In making these changes, there are undoubtedly going to be issues there caused by having new combinations out on the pitch, but what we are looking for is effort and being prepared to work hard for the team.’
The repeated message from Reynolds is that he and his coaching team have to look at the medium and long term benefits to each week’s team selection and now that they have stepped up to Level Four on the national league ladder, they are faced with the challenge of tougher games with fewer breaks in a 30-game league campaign.
Squad rotation is now a necessity rather than a luxury and the Guernsey coach can find out about new players and those on the fringes only by seeing them in action on a Saturday afternoon rather than just in training sessions.
‘I want to know, for example, that Brad Webb can come in and do a job in the second row when Nick Merrien is away in November,’ said Reynolds, specifically referring to this weekend’s selection.
‘I want to know if Harry Baron can compete with Tom Ceillam for a starting spot, things like that.
‘Matt Creber has started for us before, but it will be interesting to see how he goes without the likes of Doug Horrocks next to him.
‘Mez has been with the first-team squad for getting on for a decade now and sometimes you can get lost with the big names in the pack, so this is a chance for him to show his leadership quality.
‘I really believe that there are more pros than cons out of [doing] this, but we still need to perform on the pitch.
‘If this is successful this weekend, it could probably happen a lot.’
Webb is one of three players making their first Raiders start this afternoon along with debutant Henry Greenhalgh, who starts at fly-half, with Tom Teasdale shifting out one position to inside centre.
‘Henry is an English guy we recruited a couple of weeks ago, we’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to bring him in because fly-half is such a technical area. This week we felt was a good chance,’ Reynolds said.
‘He has been out in New Zealand for the last couple of years and hopefully he can try and add something to our game. I think of him more as an English-style fly-half and we need someone who is able to kick us around the park and let the forwards work.
‘Importantly, Henry is really open to developing his game.
‘Elia has done a fantastic job for us in a position that is probably not his preferred role.’
The other new starter is hooker Harry Baron, who made his debut off the bench against Clifton last week. Chris Bolton, who is a scrum-half but can cover along the backline, is also set to make his debut off the bench.
‘Chris scored a hat-trick for St Jacques a couple of weeks ago. He is a nine who used to play for Southend in National Two and he has been out in Australia and New Zealand playing.’
Raiders have their work cut out for them this afternoon against the league leaders who have won five of their six games so far.
‘Rams are a good side with a big pack, probably stronger scrummaging than Clifton were last week, and they have got some good backs as well. As the table indicates, I think they are definitely a notch higher than Clifton.
‘If you look at the result they had at Barnes last week [a 26-19 win], it might not look great on paper, but they rested 10 players from the previous week’s hammering of Bury St Edmunds.
‘They are a good side, but we just have to get stuck into them and if we can put pressure on them defensively, anything can happen.’
Steventon, Ceillam, L. Batiste, Webb, Merrien, Martin, Rice, Creber, Alexandre, Greenhalgh, Barnes, Teasdale, Armstrong, Ahne, Gow. Replacements: Anderson, Shannon, Le Cocq, Bolton.