GRAHAM DAWE says his Plymouth Albion side are ‘a bit grumpy’ after back-to-back defeats against Blackheath and Darlington Mowden Park.
Prior to those two matches, Albion had claimed three consecutive bonus-point victories to rise up the National One table. But they have now fallen back down to 10th in the standings, with just over a third of the season gone.
Dawe is hoping his team can use their ‘grumpiness’ to beat an Ampthill side, who have only lost four times since their promotion into National One.
The Bedfordshire visitors, who have claimed five promotions in nine years, do have an experienced squad, which includes former Albion players Ben Gulliver and Elliot Clements-Hills and Tongan internationals Aleki Lutui, Vili Ma’asi, Paino Hehea and Maama Molitika.
“We are looking forward to welcoming Ampthill to Plymouth for the first time,” said Albion’s director of rugby Dawe.
“It’s an exciting challenge for us.
“They have got some players that have played on this ground before, but as a club it will be a new experience for them, which is something to look forward to.
“It will be a big challenge for us as well as them.”
Dawe, though, knows his young team are under pressure to win at home after two successive defeats.
“This team has put itself under pressure all the way through this season so far,” said Dawe. “They are extremely agitated about not winning at home last time against Darlington.
“Fair play to Darlington, they squeezed out a very important victory for themselves and it set them on the road to another win as well, but we are a bit grumpy at where we are.”
He added: “You try to get as much work done as you can during the week but at the end of the day it is down to what you do between 3pm and 5pm which is what counts.
“It is all about our work ethic, our understanding and execution this Saturday.”
Dawe continued: “People who come along and support Plymouth Albion as they have done in their thousands over the last few years want to see a game of rugby but they also like to see their team win.
“Like the Darlington game, this weekend is going to be a fairly stern examination of our resources.”
Albion have an extremely young squad. In many games this season, a third of their starting line-up have been teenagers.
They have shown their potential this season, particularly in the matches against Henley and Richmond, but Dawe admits consistency is hard for experienced teams to find, let alone young squads.
“Consistency is something we are striving for,” he said. “Even the top teams in the world, that’s what they look for. Consistency of play and performance as well as results.
“You just have to work hard and hope you will be rewarded, but there’s no guarantee.”
Dawe is able to recall experienced lock Dan Collier after he missed last weekend’s trip to Blackheath due to illness.
Collier returns in place of teenager Jim Massey, who made his debut in London.
Dawe also brings Sam Matavesi and Matt Shepherd into the side, with Cameron Thompson and Cameron Setter dropping down to the bench.
Massey misses out on a place in the squad altogether, but Dawe insists the youngster definitely enhanced his reputation last week.
“It is good to have Dan Collier back,” said Dawe. “But we were really pleased with the performance of Jim Massey last week. Shek Sherrif has trained this week as well after injury, so, to compensate for the loss of Dave Fisher, we have got two young locks ready in the waiting.”
Top points scorer Tom Putt is still out injured.
ALBION TEAM TO FACE AMPTHILL
15 Ethan Ford
14 Tom Bedford
13 Jake Murphy (capt)
12 Marc Koteczky
11 Harrison Cully
10 Billy Searle
9 Matt Shepherd
1 Ollie Dawe
2 James Penman
3 Christian Judge
4 Dan Collier
5 Ed Holmes
6 Nile Dacres
7 Sam Matavesi
8 Herbie Stupple
Replacements: Rupert Freestone, Gregory Sebastien, Cameron Thompson, Robin Wedlake, Cameron Setter.