Plymouth Albion / Rugby

Plymouth Albion expect to face a Hartpury team keen for revenge

Dan Pullinger, pictured celebrating Albion's win over Hartpury in April, comes into the starting line-up on Saturday

Dan Pullinger, pictured celebrating Albion’s win over Hartpury in April, comes into the starting line-up on Saturday

PLYMOUTH Albion will be expecting to face a fired up Hartpury College team on Saturday in their first away match of the 2016/17 campaign (2.30pm).

Albion were the only team to complete the double over the Gloucestershire side last season, beating them 22-15 at their place and then triumphing 35-26 at Brickfields in April.

Hartpury finished runners-up last year, but they were hurt by their two defeats by Plymouth and they will be looking for revenge on Saturday.

It will be their second successive home match, with them grabbing the National One headlines last weekend by hammering much-fancied Blackheath 34-0.

However, their director of rugby John Barnes has told his team not to get carried away by that result.

“Given that Blackheath beat two Championship sides in pre-season, we may end up looking back on last weekend as our best performance of the season, but there’s still 29 games to go and we’ll be making sure everyone keeps their feet on the ground,” said Barnes.

“We’ll face much stiffer tests this season than we did last weekend and we’re not taking the threat of Plymouth lightly.

“They were the only team who did the double over us last season. They have been through massive changes but they still have the core of last season’s squad and they seem to know how to beat us.”

Albion, who will be making their shortest away trip of the season this weekend, opened their campaign with a hard-earned 23-18 win over nearly-promoted Cambridge at a rain-soaked Brickfields.

Plymouth coach Dan Parkes might have been happy his team got off to a winning start but he was disappointed with the way his team scrummed, which was one of their strengths last season.

He has responded by changing both his starting props for Saturday’s trip to Gloucestershire.

Exeter Chiefs loanee Will Norton will make his first league start at loose-head, with Dan Pullinger, who impressed last season in Albion’s win at Hartpury, coming in at tight-head.

Rupert Cooper will make his first Albion start at Hartpury

Rupert Cooper will make his first Albion start at Hartpury

The only other personnel change Albion make is in the back-row where Rupert Cooper is handed his first league start in place of George Mills.

Cooper’s inclusion sees Dan Williams switch to number seven.

Dan Collier is back in the squad and will start on the bench.

Hartpury are likely to include former Albion captain Rhys Oakley in their starting line-up. However, they are likely to be missing Bath number eight Zac Mercer, who starred against Blackheath last Saturday, as well as try machine Jonas Mikalcius and lock Joe Dancer.

Albion have never lost to Hartpury. As well as the two league meetings, Plymouth also beat them 34-26 in a pre-season match at Brickfields in August 2014.

Albion: 15 Matt Shepherd, 14 Matt Crosscombe, 13 Dean Squire, 12 Dan Powell, 11 Seti Raumakita, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Jack Maunder, 1 Will Norton, 2 Jamie Salter, 3 Dan Pullinger, 4 Nile Dacres, 5 Ed Holmes, 6 Rupert Cooper, 7 Dan Williams, 8 Herbie Stupple. Reps: Tom Cowan-Dickie, Rupert Freestone, Billy Keast, Dan Collier, Robin Wedlake.


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