PLYMOUTH Albion are boosted by the return of lock Dan Collier for their home match against Fylde on Saturday (3pm).
Collier missed Albion’s 25-21 defeat at Hull Ionians last weekend due to a groin strain.
However, hooker James Penman is again ruled out, as is winger Robin Wedlake, who injured his ankle in the opening minutes of the game at Hull.
“James Penman is still suffering from a neck strain,” said Albion’s director of rugby Graham Dawe. “The signs are that he could be back available next week.
“It’s not ideal as James is one of our lead players with his experience, strength and leadership, but it’s another opportunity for Rupert Freestone and Dean Brooker to try and cement the shirt.”
Collier for Andy Chesters is the only personnel change to the pack that started against Hull, but it’s all change in the backs, where only Ethan Ford will start in the same shirt as last week.
In Wedlake’s absence, Matt Shepherd switches from scrum-half to the wing, where he finished last Saturday, with Cameron Setter returning in the number nine shirt.
Tom Putt comes back in at full-back after missing out last week. Jake Murphy returns to 13, Tom Bedford goes back to 12, with Marc Koteczky taking over at fly-half.
“It is an opportunity for Marc to start at number 10 and try and cement that position,” said Dawe. “Elliot Bale has done well in the first three games and Billy Searle did well when he came on last week, but Marc is an experienced campaigner and we want as much experience as possible at 10, 12 and 13 for this match.
“It is important that midfield trio clicks early in the game, so other players can play off them.”
Murphy, Albion’s captain, started at full-back last week but he did not get into the game as much as he had in the opening two fixtures.
“Jake is more engaged in the game at 13,” said Dawe. “That helps with decision-making and running of the game.”
In Bale’s absence from the starting line-up, 18-year-old Putt will take over the goal-kicking duties, although fellow starters Shepherd and Koteczky can also kick.
Fylde, who have finished in the top four the past two seasons, have an experienced team. Included in their ranks is former Albion scrum-half Greg Nicholls and ex-Plymouth marine David Fairbrother.
Dawe got a close look at a number of their players in May when his Cornwall side played Lancashire.
“They have got some experienced campaigners,” said Dawe. “Many have done well with Lancashire.
“We’ve just got to make sure we squeeze them at set piece time and make sure we try and cut off their supply to their outside backs.
“We’ve got to chop their runners early. We can’t let them get momentum around the ruck.”
Albion go into Saturday’s game on the back of two narrow defeats.
Having beaten Richmond 33-20 in the opening game, Albion lost 16-15 to last season’s runners-up Rosslyn Park two weeks ago and went down by four points at Hull last Saturday.
Fylde, though, are also keen for a win after losing their last two matches. They were beaten 29-27 last week by Richmond, who kicked a last minute penalty, and the Saturday before lost at Hartpury College having played 50 minutes with 14 men.
“We would like to get a win this week,” said Dawe. “But there’s three officials and 15 players standing between us and that.”
Albion got good support in their first two home games and Dawe hopes that can continue tomorrow.
“They (the crowd) gave us massive thrust against Rosslyn Park, but we couldn’t quite get there but we did get there against Richmond,” said the Albion boss.
“They can help as much as possible, but it is up to the team to challenge the opposition in their half and prevent any continuity in their game.”
Albion, without Collier and Penman, struggled in the set piece at Hull and Dawe said: “We’ve certainly spent a few hours on line-outs, kick-offs and scrums this week. We’ll just have to see if it makes any difference.”
ALBION TEAM TO FACE FYLDE
15 Tom Putt
14 Ethan Ford
13 Jake Murphy (capt)
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: Dean Brooker, Dan Pullinger, Billy Searle, Seti Raumakita, Andy Chesters,