SEVEN members of Cornwall’s County Championship winning squad will definitely be plying their trade at Plymouth Albion this coming season after the National One club added Jake Murphy and Rupert Freestone to their ranks.
The duo follow fellow Duchy players Jon Dawe, Christian Judge, Matt Shepherd, Billy Searle and Robin Wedlake in joining their county coach Graham Dawe at Brickfields.
It remains to be seen if Launceston’s Murphy and Clifton’s Freestone are the last Black and Gold players to sign up for the Plymouth rebuilding project.
Front-row forward Freestone is no stranger to Albion. He spent two seasons as a youngster at Brickfields between 2010-2012 and made 11 first team appearances. However, his spell was cut short after breaking his collarbone in a cycling accident.
He took a year out of rugby after that before joining Bristol in 2013. He made two cup appearances for Andy Robinson’s side, while also playing regularly on loan at Clifton, who he joined permanently in 2014.
Dawe is certainly happy to have him back at Brickfields, mainly because of his versatility.
“He can play all across the front-row – loose-head, hooker or tight-head. It is good to have someone who can cover all three positions.
“He had a really good campaign with Cornwall and made an impact. He carried the ball well and really, really took to scrummaging at loose-head.
“He has got a lot of good attributes. He’s got good hands, versatility, good fitness and good strength.”
Freestone said: “Plymouth Albion are a club I hold close to my heart. When I heard that Graham was back in charge it was a good opportunity to go back to a club I left too soon.”
Dawe had previously said with a limited budget and the replacement rules in National One he was looking for players who can play in more than one position.
And that criteria certainly applies to his other new signing, 27-year-old utility back Murphy.
“Jake can play 10, 12, 13 or 15,” said Dawe. “But I think 13 or 15 will be the positions he’ll be mainly challenging for.
“He’s got a good left foot, is comfortable on the ball, got pace and a good defensive game.”
What Murphy does bring is experience. He has played more than 150 first team games for Launceston and made his debut for them when they were in English rugby’s second tier.
Murphy, currently a teaching assistant in a Plymouth primary school, said: “The opportunity to become a full-time rugby player was too good to turn down.
“I enjoyed working with Graham Dawe when I played for Cornwall and I believe he will help me become a more rounded player.
“It appears Plymouth Albion are putting together an exciting squad but I know National One is a tough league to play in.”
Albion’s back division is virtually complete now. The only likely addition might be an experienced fly-half, although Searle, Murphy, Shepherd, Marc Koteczky and Cameron Setter can all play there.
Dawe has now signed five Launceston players and it is believed a number of other Cornish All Blacks players are training with Albion in the hope of securing deals.
CONFIRMED ALBION PLAYERS FOR 2015/16: Herbie Stupple, Cameron Setter, Marc Koteczky, James Penman, Dan Pullinger (Exeter), Ethan Ford (Randwick, Australia), Ed Holmes (loan/DR, Exeter), Jack Maunder (loan/DR, Exeter), Harrison Cully (loan/DR, Exeter), Tom Bedford (Esher), Nile Dacres (Moseley), Jon Dawe (Launceston), Christian Judge (Launceston), Dean Brooker (Cornish Pirates), Matt Shepherd (Launceston), Billy Searle (Launceston), Robin Redlake (Redruth), Rupert Freestone (Clifton), Jake Murphy (Launceston).
CONFIRMED *DEPARTURES: Brett Beukeboom (Cornish Pirates), Ian Grieve (Ealing), Toby Howley-Berridge (Ealing), Lewis Warner (Kowloon, Hong Kong), Tom Fidler (Moseley), Ben Woods, (Nottingham), Rob Langley (Nottingham), Lawrence Rayner (Nottingham), Tom Heard (Nottingham), Mark Kohler, Josh Davies (London Welsh), Ruairi Cushion (Exmouth), Neale Patrick (London Scottish), Tom Cowan-Dickie (Redruth), Andrew Tiedemann, Declan Cusack (Doncaster), Ted Stagg (Doncaster), Tom Harrison (Darlington), Peter Homan (Darlington), Jake Henry (Darlington), Elliot Clements-Hill (training with Bedford), Alistair Bone, Sam Matavesi (Camborne), Charlie Foley (Moseley, was a non-contract player at Albion last season).
*Departure list does not include dual-registered players like Tom Hicks (Gloucester), Jack Arnott and Sam Simmonds (both Exeter).