Plymouth Albion will face a challenging pre-season test this Saturday, August 26, when they travel to Penzance to take on head coach Kieran Hallett’s former club Cornish Pirates.
Albion had a tough encounter with Championship opponents Bedford Blues on August 12 and, by Hallett’s own admission, the National League One side were found wanting in a few areas.
“We were taught a few lessons at Bedford Blues which is a good thing. If any of the boys had visions that this was going to be a cakewalk of a season then they know now it won’t be easy.”
With talk in some quarters of a real chance of promotion for Albion this season, Hallett warns about thinking any further ahead than the first league game.
He says: “I think people need to not get ahead of themselves. Yes, we had a good year last year but the slate has been wiped clean.
“Yes of course people need to be excited because we have kept a large number of the squad and gained a few fresh faces. We’re quietly confident but at the moment we’re not really looking past the first game.”
Albion will benefit from the dual registration of a number of Exeter Chiefs players.
“You can tell already when the Exeter Chiefs players come in. When they have been at training the standard goes up. They are obviously very good players and they wouldn’t be at Exeter if they weren’t. Our guys respond whenever they’re there. They pick their own standards up which is great.
“We have been given two guys in Jack Innard and Tom Hendrickson who are seasoned Championship players who have performed very well for the Cornish Pirates over the past three years. In all honesty they’re too good for our level. The next step in their development is to spend more time at Sandy Park and, fortunately for us, that means that geographically they’re closer and they’ve been lent to us so I’m really excited to see how they go.”
Hallett believes there will be a number of contenders in the league this year.
“There’s a bit of noise coming out from Coventry about what they’re doing and who they’re signing and they’ve signed some great players. Their budget is obviously a lot different to mine! They’re going out after signing ex Premiership players, so they’ll be good. Purely based on their recruitment they’ll be stronger than they were last year.
“Then there are the teams that were good last year… the Rosslyn Parks and the Ampthills. They will be strong again. I think a lot of people having seen that there’s no team coming down from the Championship have gone, right OK, this is our time to really have a crack at it.”
“Our recruitment has probably been a little quieter than others. That is budget-based. Although things on the field were very good last year I think people need to bear in mind that we are still only 12 months out of administration and the issues that come with that.“
The team exceeded expectations with their second place finish last year and Hallett hopes he can keep building on that success.
“I think we probably exceeded our own expectations to be honest! I certainly didn’t expect us to go on a 13 game winning run after Christmas. But we did. I think we surprised a few people and hopefully we can do that again this year.”
Plymouth Albion will face Cornish Pirates at The Mennaye Field, Penzance, on Saturday, August 26. Kick-off is at 5pm, gates open at 3pm.
The final pre-season friendly will take place v Ivybridge at the Brickfields on Monday, August 28. Kick-off is at 5.30pm and entry costs £5, with under-16s free with a paying adult.
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, at the Brickfields vs Esher.