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Fylde name squad for visit to Plymouth Albion: match preview

Fylde make their first ever visit to Plymouth Albion's Brickfields Ground on Saturday (ko 3pm) in a very important National One fixture. Each side has a win and two defeats to their name so the stakes are high as each attempts to get a run of decent form underway. Fylde will travel to the West Country on Friday evening, stay overnight near Bristol and make the rest of the journey on Saturday morning.
 
Fylde entertained Albion at the Woodlands in 2005 in a 5th round National Trophy tie. The clubs were two divisions apart at that time and Albion made their class tell with a 37-0 victory. The last time the two clubs faced each other in level three league action was in the 2001/2 season and at their old Beacon Park ground at the end of which Albion were promoted to level two. The results that season went according to the form book and Albion won by 20-0 at the Woodlands in November 2011 and 28-5 at Beacon Park early in the New Year, 2002. Fylde finished in 5th place in the division.
 
It's interesting to note the Fylde squad that January day almost 14 years ago and how many either still play at the Club or are closely associated with it, including Ben Godfrey, Tom Godfrey, Richard Kenyon, Mark Evans, Steve Gough, Laurence Condon, Matt Filipo, Martin Scott, Craig McIntyre, David Wiseman & Martin Wallwork. Few clubs could claim that degree of affection and loyalty from players.
 
In all, the clubs have met just seven times in their long histories. They were both instrumental in the move to establish truely national rugby as founding members of National Three in 1985/6. There have been six league fixtures in all; three wins for Albion between 1985/6 & 1988/9, one win for Fylde. The three later games have all been wins for the Devonians. So Fylde will be seeking their first ever win in Plymouth on Saturday. 
 
Plymouth Albion maintained level two status for 14 seasons before their 'annus horribillis' in 2014/15 which ended in relegation from the Championship. Almost all of their full-time squad departed and, under Director of Rugby Graham Dawe, they have had to re-build pretty much a new group of players.
 
Albion are gradually adjusting to National One. They beat Richmond 33-20 at home on the opening day of the season and took promotion favourites Rosslyn Park right down to the wire before losing 15-16 at Brickfields a week later. They were horrified to go 0-25 down after 54 minutes at Hull Ionians last Saturday but battled back bravely to reduce the final deficit to 20-25.
 
Plymouth Albion was founded in 1876 by a group of apprentices from the Devonport Royal Navy Dockyard. Perhaps the 'glory days' of the Club were between the World Wars when they contributed sometimes four of the England pack. The beginnings of league rugby saw them at level three, along with Fylde, and they moved between levels three and four until 2001/2. Under inspirational player-coach Graham Dawe who took up the coaching reins in 1999, they built a solid and thriving level two club which vied with Exeter Chiefs to be Devon's top club. In 2009 the Chiefs reached the Premiership and the fortunes of Albion declined somewhat. Financial difficulties didn't help matters and Dawe stood down from the Club in 2011. As Albion struggled last season, Dawe returned as head coach but relegation followed on the last day of the campaign.
 
No one should doubt Graham Dawe's credentials as a former player or coach. Only last May he led Cornwall to become Bill Beaumont Cup County Champions when they overcame Lancashire in the Final at Twickenham. Several of the players on both sides will face each other again on Saturday. One of Dawe's squad strengthening actions in the summer was to recruit a number of Cornish players including the excellent scrum-half Matt Shepherd who caused Lancashire all kinds of problems on that May day and prop Christian Judge. In fact, at least six Launceston players have moved to Brickfields this season.
 
A number of quality imports also include winger Robin Wedlake (ex-Redruth), much travelled centre Tom Bedford (ex-Esher, Ealing T, Cornish Pirates, Newcastle Falcons, Bedford Blues & Exeter Chiefs), hooker/loose-head Dean Brooker (Cornish Pirates), flanker Nile Dacres (ex-Moseley), lock Dan Collier (ex-Ealing Trailfinders, Esher & Plymouth A) and flanker/no 8 Andy Chesters (ex-Launceston & Hartpury College). Into that mix also comes Australian U'20s utility back Ethan Ford (ex-Melbourne Rebels & Randwick) who joins former Randwick team mate, centre Mark Koteczky.
 
If Fylde's Royal Marine & Royal Navy squad no 8 David Fairbrother is able to make the trip he'll meet up with two of his Navy team mates in Albion colours - flanker Jarrad Hayler and winger Seti Raumakita who made his Albion debut at Ionians. Fylde's Namibian international Ryan De La Harpe will also have a special interest in doing well in Saturday's game as the Namibia RWC2015 squad is likely to be present as Brickfields is their training base. Ryan's younger brother Darryl is in the squad.
 
Two Fylde players in recent years have also represented Plymouth Albion with distinction - local lads Tom Barlow and Greg Nicholls. Fly-half Barlow, a Rossall School product, was at Sale and made a few appearances for Fylde in 1998/99. He subsequently moved to Albion and had four very successful seasons between 2000-04 scoring over 800 points in the process. He rejoined Fylde in the 2009/10 season. Greg Nicholls, educated at Kirkham Grammar School, moved to Bristol Rugby, London Welsh and then Plymouth for a season in 2008/9 making 29 appearances in all. He then concentrated on his medical studies and via Clifton RFC 'Dr Nicholls' moved back to the Fylde Coast in 2014 and joined Fylde. Additionally, Fylde's young Cornish lock Todd Prisk will be travelling close to home with the Fylde party and will be watched by his enthusiastic rugby family up from St Ives. He will also know a number of the Cornish members of the Albion squad. 
 
The Albion line-up has been named:
 
15 Tom Puttt; 14 Ethan Ford, 13 Jake Murphy (c), 12 Tom Bedford, 11 Matt Shepherd; 10 Marc Koteczky, 9 Cameron Setter; 1 Ollie Dawe, 2 Rupert Freestone, 3 Christian Judge, 4 Dan Collier, 5 Ed Holmes, 6 Nile Dacres, 7 Jarrad Hayler, 8 Herbie Stupple.
 
Reps (from): Dean Brooker, Dan Pullinger, Billy Searle, Elliot Bale, Seti Raumakita, Andy Chesters, Gregory Sebastien.
 
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Fylde make three changes to their starting line-up. Skipper Chris Briers returns at full-back, Phill Mills at hooker and David Fairbrother at no 8. Late injuries to Anthony Bingham and Tom Burtonwood complicated selection. Three other forwards were ruled out through either injury (Evan Stewart) or suspension (Gareth Rawlings & Joe Robinson). Additionally, lock forward & Head Coach Paul Arnold and hooker & Forwards Coach Alex Loney are unable to make the trip due to work commitments. Backs Coach Warren Spragg is leading the squad so was also unavailable for selection.
 
1st Team Manager Ian Cosh commented: "We have suffered numerous injuries and unavailable players yet we are still able to field a strong squad that will, I'm sure, do the Club proud. This is the kind of depth which we have lacked in recent seasons." Note that the average age of the starting pack is 23.6yrs.
 
15 Chris Briers(c); 14 Jordan Dorrington, 13 Ralph Dowds, 12 Scott Rawlings, 11 Oli Brennand; 10 Chris Johnson, 9 Ryan De La Harpe; 1 Dan Birchall, 2 Phill Mills, 3 Simon Griffiths, 4 Nick Gray, 5 Todd Prisk, 6 Mark Goodman, 7 Ben Vernon, 8 David Fairbrother.
 
16 Adam Lewis, 17 Danny Maher, 18 Dominic Moon, 19 Greg Nicholls, 20 Lewis Allen.
 
 

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