AUSTRALIAN back Ethan Ford is battling to be fit for Plymouth Albion’s important National One match at Esher on Saturday.
Ford has started every league game for Albion this season after joining the club in the summer from Sydney-based Randwick.
However, he suffered an ankle injury in last weekend’s 29-18 home win over Coventry.
“Ethan had not trained yet,” said director of rugby Graham Dawe. “But we’ll give him as long as possible to prove his fitness as he is one of our go-to players in these big games.”
Sixth-placed Albion head to Surrey knowing they could move into the top four in they beat Esher, who currently sit two places and four points ahead of them.
Apart from Ford everyone else came through last week’s win over Coventry.
Albion also have Tom Putt and Cameron Thompson back in contention after returning from long-term injuries, but they will still be without hooker James Penman as well as Royal Navy players Jarrad Hayler and Seti Raumakita this Saturday.
Hayler and Raumakita (pictured) have joined up with the Navy squad for a three-month training camp in preparation for the Inter-Services Championship, while Penman has still not fully recovered from the calf injury he suffered in early December.
“James Penman is still not quite there,” said Dawe. “Although he has got full movement and he is running, it (his calf) is still a bit weak so it will be another week rehab for him.
“We can’t take a chance on him, even though we’d love to have him back as he brings a special cocktail to the changing room with his emotion, desire and standards.”
Dawe added: “We have lost Jarrad and Seti this week to the Navy, but we’ve got six guys after their two places.
“We have got Andy Chesters and Cameron Thompson vying to get into the squad as back-row cover, while in the backs we have Harrison Cully, Jon Dawe, Robin Wedlake and Tom Putt all looking to get back into the squad as well.”
Teenager Putt was Albion’s first choice full-back until he got injured in November. He also became the club’s main goalkicker and has one of the best success ratios in the league.
Dawe admits it is good to have the 18-year-old back in contention, especially with the versatility he offers.
“Versatility is important,” said Dawe. “Tom’s very comfortable playing 10, 12, 15 and, although he was a bit miffed when he got put on the wing for a game back in October, he can be very effective there as well. His versatility is very important to us.
“He is a rising star in the game. He’s got an incredible kicking percentage for such a young lad.”
Albion have struggled in the goalkicking departure during his absence, but that has not worried Dawe too much, with his team having won seven or their last eight matches.
“We are trying to create chances to score tries,” said the Albion boss. “We have to try and keep our fitness levels high and our continuity.
“Our defensive chase game is one of the priorities at the moment to create pressure on the opposition. We want to be a team that scores tries and defends our try line well.”