CORNWALL winger Jon Dawe will make his Plymouth Albion debut on Saturday when they entertain Esher at Brickfields in National One (3pm).
The 21-year-old (pictured above) has had to be patient since joining the club in the summer. He suffered a knee injury in pre-season which hampered his progress and has been on loan at his former club Launceston.
But he has been recalled for this weekend’s game after Robin Wedlake failed to recover from an ankle injury and with Harrison Cully and Seti Raumakita unavailable.
Albion have used scrum-half Matt Shepherd on the wing for the last two weeks, but against free-scoring Esher they have opted to bring in a specialist in that position and move Shepherd back to nine.
“It’s a great opportunity for Jon to establish himself in the side,” said Albion’s director of rugby Graham Dawe, who is boosted by fellow winger Ethan Ford’s recovery from a knee injury he sustained last weekend.
“Jon’s been patient and got game-time playing for Launceston. He came to the party late due to an injury in pre-season, but this is a chance for him to step up and play. We are looking forward to seeing his physicality, speed and finishing ability.”
Albion could also hand a debut to Plymouth-born back-row forward Cameron Thompson (pictuered). The 24-year-old former Fylde, Sedgley Park and Sale academy player has been named among the replacements.
“He’s another player who has been patient,” said Graham Dawe. “He’s been an intense trainer over the last 12 weeks and we feel this is a chance for him to also establish himself in the squad and put pressure on Gregory Sebastien and Andy Chesters for that number seven shirt.”
Albion, still without Navy flanker Jarrad Hayler, make three personnel changes to their starting line-up following last week’s controversial 26-19 defeat at Coventry.
As well as Jon Dawe coming into the backs for Cameron Setter, Albion make two changes to their front-row, with James Penman and Dan Pullinger taking over the prop roles from 18-year-old Ollie Dawe and 22-year-old Christian Judge.
Dawe says those changes are about sharing the workload. Ollie Dawe has started all Albion’s previous matches, while Judge has made four starts and one replacement appearance.
“It is just about managing the resources,” said Graham Dawe. “Two weeks ago against Fylde we did not make a forward change all match.
“Ollie has played all the games and we don’t want to be accused of rinsing our props out. We are also looking for a good balanced bench that we can utilise.”
On the change at scrum-half the Albion boss added: “It was always our intention to give Cameron Setter and Matt Shepherd a couple of games in a row at scrum-half. That opportunity was taken away from Matt when Robin Wedlake got injury and he went to the wing.
“But we feels this is the right time to give him an opportunity to see how he goes in partnership with Marc Koteczky.”
Albion are looking to bounce back from last week’s defeat at Coventry – a game decided by a forward pass.
But boss Dawe says his team have moved on from that disappointment and are keen to get back to winning ways on Saturday.
“At 4.45pm on a Saturday you have to move on,” said Dawe. “You can’t linger on, thinking about what ifs and buts. Once that final whistle is blown there is nothing you can do about it.
“Esher will pose a particular challenge, just like Fylde did and Rosslyn Park in our last home games.
“Esher have an all-out attacking game, but we just have to adapt to that. They might play with lots of depth and width, so we just have to keep hold of our shape and trust our inside defence.”
He added: “All we can do is try to concentrate on this match and try to put things in place this week – adapt our game a little bit, try and get a more balanced game than we’ve had so far.
“We are really looking forward to meeting a new challenge, playing in front of our own spectators and trying to notch another victory at home.”
Dawe, though, admits his team after under pressure to win after three narrow defeats this season.
“I think there is pressure, yeah,” he said. “If you lose away and then play at home then that brings pressure. People want to see the team the win as many games as possible. This weekend will be exactly that.”
Before the game Albion will be holding a minute’s silence to former chairman and player Vernon Pinches, who was associated with the club for more than 60 years.
Dawe is hoping his young side can add their tribute on the field.
“Vernon would want the team to play the way he liked to see rugby played – well balanced and open,” said Dawe. “That’s what he always craved for.
“We will be trying our best to do that and to notch up another home victory.”
Albion include former Esher player Tom Bedford in their side, while the visitors are likely to start with former Plymouth fly-half Paul Roberts.
ALBION TEAM TO FACE ESHER
15 Tom Putt
14 Ethan Ford
13 Jake Murphy (capt)
12 Tom Bedford
11 Jon Dawe
10 Marc Koteczky
9 Matt Shepherd
1 James Penman
2 Rupert Freestone
3 Dan Pullinger
4 Dan Collier
5 Ed Holmes
6 Nile Dacres
7 Greg Sebastien
8 Herbie Stupple
Replacements: 16 Ollie Dawe 17 Chris Judge 18 Cameron Thompson 19 Elliot Bale 20 Cameron Setter