FRENCHMAN Gregory Sebastien will make only his third start for Plymouth Albion this weekend when the city side travel to Fylde in National One.
Sebastien started Albion’s matches against Coventry and Esher in October when Jarrad Hayler was away on Royal Navy duty, but since then the 22-year-old has had to be patient.
He has made nine replacement appearances in the club’s last 11 games and has impressed in recent weeks when he has come on.
And the former Lyon player gets his chance to finally start a game again on Saturday at Fylde with Hayler and Ed Holmes unavailable for Albion due to work and university commitments.
“It is a chance for Greg to show what he can do,” said director of rugby Graham Dawe.
“At the beginning of the season it was a harsh environment for him to come into, having just arrived in the country, but he knows what we want and we know how to use his agility, speed and fitness.
“We are looking forward to seeing him start. He’s a fine line-out forward, a good chop tackler and he has got the ability to beat defenders with his pace. Hopefully, he will have an opportunity to get his hands on the ball on Saturday.”
Sebastien added: “For me now in 2016 the real things begin.
“Now I am really focussed on the work I have to do for this team.
“It is my first time in England and I have learned a lot already.
“What was difficult at the beginning (of the season) was maybe the communication during the game with the others, like how and when to run and the position to adopt. That was quite difficult, but now it is clear in my head, so that’s working better now and I am going to keep working.”
Collier comes in for Holmes and captain Murphy returns to the team at centre, with Tom Bedford reverting to the wing and Seti Raumakita dropping to the bench.
With Hayler, Holmes and also Andy Chesters unavailable and former Fylde player Cameron Thompson still injured, Raumakita will offer flanker cover for Albion. Raumakita does play flanker for the Royal Navy even though Albion have used him mainly as a winger.
“It is great to have Jake back,” said Dawe. “He has been patient after injury, but has worked his way back into the team.
“Tom Bedford and Marc Koteczky have given the team real direction in the centres and Tom is unlucky to move to the wing and Seti is unlucky as well.”
Albion know from earlier in the season that Fylde’s speedy backs can be a real threat.
Dawe’s side did beat Fylde 31-24 at the end of September but the visitors did cause a number of problems on the day.
The Lancashire club, who finished fourth last season, have been in some good form in recent weeks, despite having some hard luck.
They have lost their last two matches to high-flying Richmond and Hartpury College by just a single point, they also drew 34-34 away at second-placed Blackheath, while beating Wharfedale, Henley and Cinderford and narrowly losing by one score to Darlington Mowden Park.
Earlier in the season they also beat Coventry, Rosslyn Park and Loughborough Students.
“Playing them at their place is certainly a challenge, but one we are looking forward to,” said Dawe.
“This team wants to go around the country and challenge sides on their own patch.
“But all away games are tough. Our last three away matches have been one score games and could have gone either way but thankfully they went our way.”
Albion, who have a good record against Fylde, are looking to bounce back from last weekend’s disappointing 17-7 home defeat to Hull Ionians. That ended a five-game winning run for Plymouth.
“I don’t think you can ever get over a loss,” said Dawe. “It sticks somewhere in your mind for the rest of your life.”
But Dawe believes his young team will have learnt from that defeat in horrendous conditions.
“For sure,” he said. “The season is all about learning and adapting. You have 80 minutes to try and change the course of a game and I’m sure they were wiser bunch at 4.45pm last Saturday than they were during the game.”
Fylde, who provide the bulk of the Lancashire team, will be without former Albion player Greg Nicholls on Saturday as he has hospital work.
Nicholls, a doctor, hit the headlines last weekend for saving the life of a women on his way to Fylde’s game with Richmond.
Albion will be making their first trip to Fylde since the 2005-06 season when they beat them 37-0 in the National Trophy, with Plymouth then a division higher.
Plymouth’s last league trip came in November 2001 when they won 20-0 with a strong second half showing, having only led 5-0 at the break.
ALBION TEAM: Ethan Ford, Tom Bedford, Jake Murphy (capt), Marc Koteczky, Harrison Cully, Billy Searle, Matt Shepherd, Ollie Dawe, Rupert Freestone, Christian Judge, Dan Collier, Nile Dacres, Gregory Sebastien, Sam Matavesi, Herbie Stupple.
Reps: Dean Brooker, Dan Pullinger, Seti Raumakita, Cameron Setter, Elliot Bale.
FYLDE TEAM: Warren Spragg, Anthony Bingham, Chris Briers, Scott Rawlings, Oli Brennard, Chris Johnson, Jordan Dorrington, Dan Birchall, Alex Loney, Adam Lewis, Paul Arnold, Gareth Rawlings, Mark Goodman, Evan Stewart, David Fairbrother.
Reps: Tom Lavelle, Tom Burtonwood, Dom Moon, Nick Gray, Ralph Dowds.