NILE DACRES is hoping Plymouth Albion can make a statement at home in their opening National One match against newly-promoted Cambridge on Saturday.
The 25-year-old forward is one of 14 players from last season’s first team squad, which won 22 out of their 30 league matches, who have stayed at Brickfields this summer.
They have been joined by a host of new arrivals, particularly in the backs.
Although there has been a lot of changes at the club over the summer, both on and off-the-field, it was the same the previous year when only four players who had been a full part of the 2014/15 Championship squad stayed.
And the experienced Dacres is hoping the new-look squad can click just like they did last season.
“It is one of those things that as soon the season finishes the new one seems ages away, but it has come around quite quick,” said the former Worcester, Stourbridge and Moseley forward, who started every match for Plymouth in 2015/16.
“We are at home for our first league game and we’re looking forward to it.
“Hopefully, it will all come together from pre-season and we can start with a bang.
“It’s a bit similar to last year as we have a lot of new faces, but playing at home does give you that extra motivation.
Dacres is hoping the group of players that have stayed for last term can pull the new squad together. They have also been joined by the likes of Kieran Hallett, Dan Williams, Tom Cowan-Dickie and Jamie Salter, who previously played for Albion in the Championship.
“There is a core group from last year and those guys, including myself, we want to improve individually on what we did last season and also try and get the group to challenge what we did last year as well,” said Dacres.
“Hopefully, those faces from last season can spearhead it this weekend.”
Dacres knows he has a lot to live up to this season. He featured in all-but six minutes of Albion’s league campaign last year. He only missed those six minutes after picking up a harsh yellow card towards the end of Plymouth’s away match at Loughborough. He also scored 12 tries.
“On a personal note, I had a great year last season – with the amount of game-time, winning the matches we did and getting a few tries,” he said.
“Personally, I always want to improve. If I can do that, then it would be a pretty good year.”
Dacres spent most of the last campaign in the back-row but he has played quite a bit in pre-season in the second-row.
“Personally, I do like playing at six, but even last year I played a few games in the second-row as well,” he said. “I think I said it last year, I will play either. If I have to do a job in the second-row then I will go out and do it. As long as I’m on the pitch, that’s the main thing.
“There’s definitely no shortage of players there (back and second-row) this season, but that’s a good thing as it keeps everyone competitive.”
“They are going to come out firing,” said Dacres, who played Cambridge earlier in his career while on loan at Stourbridge. “They are going to want to put a statement out to the rest of the teams in the league that they mean business.
“We didn’t play them last year and so we don’t know much about them, but, it’s that old saying, we just have to take each game as it comes. It does not matter who we are playing on a weekend as long as we hold high standards.
“We just have to go out and do our best – that’s all we can ask for.”