‘NEVER say never’ has been a phrase coming out of Brickfields this week ahead of their must-win away match at Moseley.
A failure to secure at least four points at Billesley Common on Saturday would see bottom side Albion relegated from the Championship.
Even if Albion do win in Birmingham they then have to beat Doncaster on the final day of the season and hope Moseley lose at Jersey.
The odds may seem in Moseley’s favour, with them seven points ahead with two games to go, but Graham Dawe, who has recently returned to Albion as their director of rugby, does not quite see it that way.
“In the history of all sport, not just rugby, there’s been massive recoveries and turnarounds,” said the former England international. “Sometimes that’s been during games, during seasons and in cup finals.
“I have played in cup finals where we have been three tries down and comeback to win the game.
“There’s always been turnarounds in sport and always will be.”
Dawe was keen to point out that in the 1998-99 season the odds were stacked against Albion staying in National League altogether. They had not won an away game all season but had to do just that at Weston-super-Mare on the final day to stay up. They did that and three years later the club were two divisions higher and pushing for the Premiership.
Albion have not won an away league match this term, but Moseley have only triumphed twice at home.
And Albion have produced some good away displays like at Nottingham, Rotherham, Yorkshire Carnegie and at Jersey in the cup.
Dawe, though, knows that Moseley will be just as fired up as the visitors
“We understand the challenge that Moseley will give us,” he said. “They will want to end their season a week early.
“It is the most exciting game of rugby I have been involved in for a long, long time.”
‘Exciting’ might not be the word most supporters would use to describe this game, but you get the impression it is the type of big, pressure match that would have motivated Dawe as a player.
He is just hoping Albion’s players are up for the challenge.
“All we can do as a team is reflect on our training, on our build up to the game and be ready for that first confrontation on that pitch at 3pm,” he said.
“We need that physicality in that first collision and then try and get the ball in our half-backs’ hands and develop some rugby.”
He added: “It’s so important to impose ourselves on the game. What the team has not had recently is a lot of ball to play with.
“We didn’t put many phases together against Yorkshire and didn’t get much ball against Bristol. They are two very powerful teams with good ball carriers but we have to match them in the tackle.
“We have put a lot of work into our defensive strategy but it’s not just about that it is about having individual and collective will to put people on the floor and challenge then in that ruck area.
“The game has been a physical minefield for many, many years, and hopefully that will always continue.”
Dawe is expecting a number of Albion supporters to make the trip.
“I’m sure we’ll have great support,” he said. “There should be a good crowd as Moseley are unveiling their new stand.”
Both Albion and Moseley have long histories and both have developed new grounds since the turn of the century.
It will be sad to lose either from the league, but as Dawe pointed out all the clubs knew there was a one-in-12 chance of relegation when they started the league in September.
When asked just how big game Saturday’s is, Dawe said: “It is certainly the biggest game since we went to Birmingham when the bottom four played off to go down. That was a huge game.”
Albion won that match with four tries and Dawe would love a similar result in England’s second city this weekend.
Former Cambridge front-row forward James Penman will be handed his first Albion start after a replacement appearance last week.
He will line up at hooker, alongside Tom Harrison, who gets his first Championships start of the season.
Lawrence Rayner, Brett Beukeboom and Iain Grieve all return to Albion’s team for the big game
Albion team: 15 Lawrence Rayner, 14 Jack Arnott, 13 Ben Woods, 12 Marc Koteczky, 11 Jake Henry, 10 Declan Cusack (capt), 9 Cameron Setter, 1 Tom Harrison, 2 James Pennam, 3 Andrew Tiedemann, 4 Neale Patrick, 5 Brett Beukeboom, 6 Rhys Oakley, 7 Eoghan Grace, 8 Iain Grieve. Reps 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Dan Pullinger, 18 Tom Fidler, 19 Tom Hicks, 20 Alistair Bone, 21 Josh Davies, 22 Toby Howley-Berridge
Moseley: 15 Tom Collins; 14 Mike Penn; 13 Will Owen; 12 Anthony Carter 11 Drew Cheshire; 10 Will Hooley; 9 Sam Brown, 1 Nathan Williams, 2 Adam Caves, 3 Craig Voisey, 4 Mike Powell; 5 Greg Charlton; 6. Neil Mason, 7 Ben Nutley; 8 Chris Brightwell. Reps: 16 Aaron Gardiner 17 Scott Tolmie; 18. Nile Dacres; 19. Buster Lawrence; 20. Ed Siggery; 21. David Brazier; 22. Sam Olver