PLYMOUTH Albion hand 18-year-old Devonian Tom Putt his first league start tomorrow when they entertain title-favourites Rosslyn Park at Brickfields (3pm).
Putt, who came on for his debut as a replacement in last week’s 33-20 win over Richmond, comes in for fellow 18-year-old Harrison Cully, who is injured.
The inclusion of Putt sees Australian Ethan Ford switch from full-back to the wing.
“It’s how we finished the game last week,” said Albion’s director of rugby Graham Dawe.
“Harrison Cullly is injured, but we are confident enough to start with Tom this weekend.
“He’s a confident lad who backs his ability. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.”
Albion make two personnel changes to their side. The other sees 20-year-old Plymouth-born Dan Pullinger replacing Christian Judge, who will start on the bench after playing a full 80 minutes last week. Dawe says that change is about sharing the work-load in the front-row.
The Albion boss does switch around his back-row, with Nile Dacres and Herbie Stupple swapping between six and eight.
Dacres and lock Dan Collier have both overcome injuries to take their place in the team, as has fly-half Elliot Bale, who enjoyed an impressive debut last weekend with 23 points and the sponsor’s man of the match award.
Another boost for Albion is the return to fitness of star Australian back Marc Koteczky, who is named on the bench after struggling all summer with a heel injury.
“It’s great to have someone of his experience and ability available again,” said Dawe, who is still without South African lock David Fisher. “Marc’s a very good rugby player. I love his ability to pass and create things. He is such an adaptable player, who has a great kick game. We just hope he does not breakdown if does come on.”
Albion will face a tough test against Rosslyn Park, who have finished as runners-up for the past two seasons, only losing four games in each campaign.
They got their 2015/16 season off to a flying start last Saturday by hammering newly-promoted Henley Hawks 62-12 at their Priory Lane ground.
Park have not visited Plymouth for 14 years. The last time they did they had Nick Easter playing for them. However, it was Albion’s then back-row star Dan Ward-Smith who won the game with a last-gasp try.
“It’s nice after last week’s performance that we get another opportunity to play at home and try to build some momentum,” said Dawe.
“This game is going to be equally as hard again as the Richmond one, we know that.”
When asked if playing last year’s runners-up this weekend would give Albion a good indication of where they are, Dawe said: “I don’t think you can go on past histories or performances from any club.
“We treat every club with the respect they deserve and just play what is in front of us. But what happened last season is last season, this is this season.”
Park, who have former Albion back Mark Kohler in their squad, did score 10 tries last week against Henley.
Dawe said: “I don’t know anything about Henley or what their capabilities. We have no reason to look at that result.
“We are just looking at Rosslyn Park as a very tidy team, who are well coached, and viewing it as a challenge. But we hope to put some things in place that will cause them problems.
“We’ll respect the conditions, the opposition and no doubt we’ll go through some hard times on Saturday, but hopefully when we do we can come out of it without perhaps conceding any points and then get the chance to put some pressure on them.”
Albion are hoping to improve of last week’s crowd of just under 1,000. However, the fans last Saturday certainly made themselves heard.
“The crowd were brilliant,” said Dawe. “But we had to give them something to go for. They can’t shout if nothing’s happening.”
Dawe hopes the team can give them something to shout about again this week.
“That’s always the plan with any rugby team in front of their own supporters, but it does not always work,” he said.
Admission into Brickfields for adults starts at £15, including a free programme, while ground or covered standing for under-16s is free. There will also be a bouncy castle and face painting for children on Saturday.
15 Tom Putt
14 Ethan Ford
13 Jake Murphy (capt)
12 Tom Bedford
11 Robin Wedlake
10 Elliot Bale
9 Cameron Setter
1 Ollie Dawe
2 James Penman
3 Dan Pullinger
4 Dan Collier
5 Ed Holmes
6 Nile Dacres
7 Jarrard Hayler
8 Herbie Stupple
Replacements: Rupert Freestone, Christian Judge, Andy Chesters, Marc Koteczky, Matt Shepherd.