Club captain Herbie Stupple is back in action for Plymouth Albion tomorrow (Saturday, September 20) in their National League One fixture against Loughborough Students at Brickfields (KO 3pm).
Fans’ favourite Stupple, sidelined with a slipped disc in October, is delighted to return to the bench for the club’s first home game of 2018.
He says: “I feel good and excited to be back. I have joined in for the last three or four weeks and completed all the drills to get fit again. I have had pretty much twelve weeks out which is long enough! Starting on the bench is perfect to build my lungs back up. I am buzzing.”
The 27-year-old admits he has found his enforced break from rugby frustrating: “I have been here for so long and it is nice to be part of it. In the last three years I have rarely been on the sidelines but know I can slot back in.
“I am just excited to get back among it now.”
Stupple was impressed with his team’s performance – and 26-nil victory – last weekend: “Fylde always push us to the edge. The last couple of seasons they put up a real fight and we lost a few at their place. To ‘nil’ a team like that who throw the ball around and have such flair in the backs is huge for us, especially away from home.
“Hopefully we will carry that on this weekend against Loughborough and find out what really made us tick.”
The influential number eight says this week’s visitors are something of an unknown quantity: “They change over the years because students move on but this year they are more of a physical side. The last time we played them they had more of a straight presence when carrying. They have still got the backs to throw the ball around and that is what they have always been so dangerous at. But there is a slight twist in their game this year now – having a scrum which is good for them. I expect the unexpected really. If the weather is as horrific as it has been, it won’t be easy for either side.”
With Exeter recalling Jack Owlett and Marcus Street and Will Norton injured last week in Lancashire, Albion face a minor front row crisis. Stupple, though, is not worried in the slightest: “I don’t think it will make much difference. Chappie (Luke Chapman) is one of the best front rows we have and at Pirates he was one of the best there. That’s massive. We can have these injuries and problems but it is always backed up with a positive by bringing a guy like that in.
“Having Dan Pullinger there all the time is great. He is a phenomenal player and really anchors the scrum which is his bread and butter. It is rare to see a scrum go backwards with him at tight-head. During the last two seasons he has probably been the team’s best player.”
The temporary shortage of props has led to Joel Armitage arriving at Brickfields this week, on loan from South West Premier side Brixham, and Stupple rates the loose-head prop: “When Bevan Armitage played here he was always talking about Joel. It is good that he can just come and slot in and he looked sharp in training this week.”
The Loughborough game coincides with a special Ladies’ Day event and Building Plymouth partnership at Brickfields, likely to generate a bumper crowd.
Stupple cannot wait to perform in front of the supporters: “The home crowd are a big driving force for me when I am playing. The respect I get from them for being here such a long time is huge. They keep following and they are still the same faces from years ago. They still follow and they keep coming. It is brilliant.”
Plymouth Albion team to face Loughborough Students at Brickfields on Saturday, January 20 (KO 3pm).
15 Matt Shepherd, 14 Matt Crosscombe, 13 Seta Raumakita, 12 Dean Squire, 11 Harrison Cully, 10 Dan Mugford, 9 Joe Snow, 1 Luke Chapman, 2 Rupert Freestone, 3 Dan Pullinger, 4 Ed Holmes, 5 John Kelly, 6 George Mills, 7 Sam Daly, 8 Eoghan Grace (Captain).
16 Joel Armitage, 17 Jamie Salter, 18 Herbie Stupple, 19 Cameron Setter, 20 Jordan Gott