Plymouth Albion kick off their new league season with a trip to Blackheath this Saturday, September 2 (KO 3pm).
The last time the two sides met was fewer than five months ago when Albion triumphed in a one-sided 48-7 away victory.
Since then the South East London club have rung the changes, bringing in former Albion head coach James Shanahan from fellow National League One side Old Albanian RFC.
Shanahan, who left Albion by mutual consent in 2015, was attracted to the role by Blackheath’s ambition who, following their seventh place finish last season, soon made two giant signings, Neale Patrick and Chukwuma Osazuwa, known as C J.
Experienced Championship and former Albion player Patrick joined his old coach from London Scottish. The 28-year-old second rower stands 6’8” tall and is likely to make his presence felt.
Nigerian-born Osazuwa is a 6’5” former footballer who signed from National League Two South club Chinnor.
Blackheath have prepared well in pre-season, taking on Championship opponents Richmond and Bedford Blues and giving good accounts of themselves, particularly during last weekend’s Bedford game when they scored three tries during their 21-38 defeat.
Head coach Kieran Hallett is happy with his team’s pre-season work. He says: “Until you get a couple of weeks into the league you don’t really know where you are, but I can say with confidence we’re in a better place than this time last year and that’s obviously a big positive.
“We went out and put Pirates under pressure. We had a lot of territory and possession and could have been better at converting that into points but generally I was very pleased with the response.
“We had a good win at Blackheath at the end of last season but it’s always difficult there. James Shanahan has gone in as a new coach so all the players will be out to impress him and make sure they keep a starting shirt. I’m sure there will be a bit of emotion from them because of the manner in which we won last time, but we’re not really concentrating on them too much. We’re just making sure that if we’re on top of our game then we’ll come away with the win.”
On facing Shanahan, Hallett says: “It’s been a couple of years since he left. He’s a good coach and his sides are always well drilled. They’re difficult to contain in attack. It will be a tough game.
“London clubs benefit from a big pool of good players who work in the city. Blackheath have been strong for many years and no doubt they will get better this year.
“Everyone wants to win the first game. You don’t want to start off with a loss but it’s a long season so, win or lose at the weekend, it bears no real relevance.”
Albion’s National League One campaign starts with an away trip to Blackheath on Saturday, September 2, followed by their first home fixture – and Albion Family Day – on Saturday, September 9, vs Esher at the Brickfields (KO 3pm).
Plymouth Albion team to face Blackheath at Well Hall, (KO 3pm) on Saturday, September 2, is as follows:
- Will Norton
- Rupert Freestone
- Daniel Pullinger
- Daniel Collier
- Sean Lonsdale
- Eoghan Grace
- George Mills
- Herbie Stupple
- Joe Snow
- Dan Mugford
- Jack Arnott
- Harvey Skinner
- Seta Raumakita
- Matt Crosscombe
- Dan Powell
- Marcus Street
- Jamie Salter
- Dan Swain
- Cameron Setter
- Dean Squire