Plymouth Albion – now third in National League One – take on sixth-placed Bishop’s Stortford at home this Saturday, January 6 (KO 3pm), in their first fixture of 2018.
Albion have not been beaten at home for more than 12 months, after their bonus point victory over Old Albanian RFC at the Brickfields.
They went on to conquer Esher at Molesey Road 29-33 in their final fixture of 2017, a game described by head coach Kieran Hallett as ‘tough’: “Their attack was very good and they caused us some problems.
“There were areas of our game that should have been a lot better, especially in defence.
“But it’s great that we came out on top.”
Albion resumed training this week after the Christmas break and Hallett says there was plenty on which to focus. He said: “We should not be conceding that many points and there is still lots for us to work on.”
Bishop’s Stortford, up from from National League Two South in 2016, have had a strong first half of the season and are currently the highest placed of the three newly-promoted teams.
Hallett rates the Hertfordshire side as an ambitious team: “They play an attacking brand of rugby and take risks. That’s how you should play the game.”
Albion won convincingly, 43-10, when the two teams met at Silver Leys in September, but Bishop’s Stortford have since posted a number of impressive performances and results, beating Blackheath away, 19-21, drawing with second-placed Darlingon Mowden Park, 22-22, and holding league leaders Coventry to a very narrow home win, 30-27, at Butts Park Arena.
Albion’s squad remains largely unchanged from the Esher game.
In-form Exeter centre Tom Hendrickson, who returns to the fold at 13, and scrum half Joe Snow join four other dual registered players in the starting XV.
Albion’s props continue their rotation, with Will Norton back in and Exeter’s Jack Owlett on the replacements’ bench.
Cornish-born second/back row Ed Holmes celebrates racking up more than 50 Plymouth Albion appearances.
Dual registered Albion and Exeter players Joe Snow and Marcus Street have been selected for the England U20s 32-man Elite Player Squad for the 2017/18 season.
The squad will compete in the 2018 Six Nations as well as the World Rugby U20 Championship in May.
Plymouth Albion team to face Bishop’s Stortford at Brickfields on Saturday, January 6 (KO 3pm).
15 Matt Shepherd, 14 Matt Crosscombe, 13 Tom Hendrickson, 12 Harvey Skinner, 11 Harrison Cully, 10 Dan Mugford, 9 Joe Snow, 1 Will Norton, 2 Jamie Salter, 3 Dan Pullinger, 4 Sean Lonsdale, 5 John Kelly, 6 Ed Holmes, 7 Sam Daly, 8 Eoghan Grace (Captain).
16 Rupert Freestone, 17 Jack Owlett, 18 George Mills, 19 Cameron Setter, 20 Jordan Gott