GRAHAM DAWE hopes his Plymouth Albion team can continue to show the togetherness that has served them so well this season when they travel to Loughborough Students in National One on Saturday (3pm).
Dawe and his coaching staff have been working hard to try and keep the players’ morale up after the club were informed they would be docked 30 points for going into administration and the squad told they might have to wait until the end of the season for contract talks.
“The situation’s not ideal,” admitted Dawe, when pushed on the subject. “You ask any players and they like to know where their future stands. That’s no different whether it’s Premiership players or level six players.
“Losing 30 points is also a tough one to ask. The players worked really hard for those points and your league position will always be there in history but without the detail.
“However, the most endearing aspect of this squad is their togetherness. They are comfortable with each other.
“They are a very resilient group. They have come back from some tough positions in games this year to win and I think they are going to be true to their mind-set and keep working hard.
“We have driven the team ethos all the way through from July 1 and we think we can achieve a lot more as a team in the future.”
Dawe, whose own future still appears unclear, certainly expects a tough challenge from Loughborough, who collected two bonus points from their 34-27 defeat at Brickfields in December.
“We’ll be looking at imposing our game on them as much as we can,” said Dawe. “We know they play out-of-the-back rugby, they play with width, play fast, counter-attack and have a great off-load game.
“So we need to keep our structure, patience and discipline. If we get opportunities to chop we need to chop.”
It will be Albion’s first visit to Loughborough, who, like Rosslyn Park, play on an artificial surface.
“I think we have run out of plaques with the amount of new clubs we have been to this year,” said Dawe.
“It’s an interesting surface and interesting surroundings – no covered spectator area. We’ve got to go there and try and create our own atmosphere and hopefully that will bode us well in the game.”
Albion are boosted by the return to fitness of scrum-half Cameron Setter.
The 22-year-old will start, meaning Matt Shepherd reverts to full-back and Tom Putt drops to the bench. Setter’s inclusion does mean Albion will be able to name two backs on the bench on Saturday, which they were unable to do last week due injuries and unavailabilities.
“Having Cameron back is a real boost for the team,” said Dawe. “He is an articulate player who has grown in stature this year and the boys trust his decision-making.
“Matt Shepherd did really well at nine last week and we are confident in him playing there, but we felt this week his experience at 15 will be important and his goalkicking is an important aspect as well.
“But Tom Putt was in great form last week. We were really pleased with Tom’s all-round game – attacking, tackling and kicking – and he could be important to us on Saturday.”
Albion are also able to welcome back hooker Rupert Freestone from England Students duty. He will start on the bench, with James Penman continuing in the number two jersey.
“Sam Matavesi did great when he had to move up to hooker but having Rupert’s line-out experience on the bench will be a great fillip for the team,” said Dawe.
Meanwhile, highly-rated young prop Ollie Dawe is set to follow Albion team-mate Billy Searle and join Championship leaders Bristol.
15 Matt Shepherd
14 Harrison Cully
13 Tom Bedford
12 Marc Koteczky
11 Robin Wedlake
10 Billy Searle
9 Cameron Setter
1 Ollie Dawe
2 James Penman
3 Christian Judge
4 Dan Collier
5 Ed Holmes
6 Nile Dacres
7 Sam Matavesi
8 Herbie Stupple (capt)
Reps (from): Dan Pullinger, Rupert Freestone, Gregory Sebastien, Andy Chesters, Cameron Thompson, Tom Putt, Jon Dawe.