PLYMOUTH Albion will continue their policy of rotating players when Darlington Mowden Park visit Brickfields this Saturday (3pm).
Following last weekend’s defeat at Fylde, Albion make five personnel changes and a couple of positional switches.
In the backs, Seti Raumakita returns at centre in place on Dean Squire, while Matt Crosscombe takes over from Robin Wedlake on the wing.
In the front-row, Tom Cowan-Dickie moves from hooker to loose-head prop, with Sam Nixon dropping out of the starting line-up and Rupert Freestone coming in for only his second start of the campaign in the number two jersey.
At the back of the scrum, fit-again Ed Holmes replaces his Exeter Chiefs team-mate Sam Skinner at lock, while Rupert Cooper returns to the back-row in place of George Mills, with Dan Williams switching from six to number seven.
There may only have been six games of the 2016/17 season played so far, but only four players – Herbie Stupple, Nile Dacres, Matt Shepherd and Joe Simmonds – have started all of them for Albion.
Albion are so far unbeaten at home this term, but they will be wary of Darlington, who beat them at Brickfields last season.
Mowden Park are level on points with Albion having both claimed four wins, but the North East club sit one place above Plymouth in fifth courtesy of a better points difference.
Mowden’s wins this season have come against Blaydon, Ampthill, Cambridge and Old Albanians. Hull and Rosslyn Park are the two teams to beat them this term.
Darlington are currently suffering something of an injury crisis. Among those on their treatment table are former Albion players James Penman and Tom Putt.
Penman was made captain of Mowden Park following his arrival at the Northern Echo Arena this summer. He started their opening five matches but missed last week’s win over Old Albanian with injury.
Teenage back Putt has yet to be able to feature for his new club. He suffered an arm injury in pre-season and then dislocated his shoulder on his return.
Penman and Putt were two of three players to make the move from Albion to Darlington in the summer. However, the third, South African David Fisher, has not been able to feature for them in National One so far as they have been waiting for Albion to release his registration.
But another ex-Plymouth player is likely to play this week. Winger Pete Homan, who spent the 2014/15 campaign at Brickfields, made his second start of the season for Darlington last weekend.
Mowden’s top scorer this term is former Coventry and Moseley back Caolan Ryan, who has collected 66 points from six starts, including four tries.
Kieran Hallett is Albion’s top scorer with 54 points from four games.
Last season’s meetings between the two clubs ended with one win each. Darlington triumphed 25-15 in horrible weather at Brickfields last October thanks to a late penalty try and penalty awarded by referee Veryan Boscawen, while Albion won 24-17 at the Northern Echo Arena in March.
A veterans’ match will take place after Albion’s National One fixture on Saturday, with Richard Thompson, Andy Matchett, Chris Lowrie, Brett Luxton and Ian Goldsmith among those set to feature.
Meanwhile, prop Curtis Reynolds, who signed a pay-as-you-play deal at Albion in the summer, has left the club and is playing for Scottish side Gala, alongside another ex-Plymouth forward Dean Brooker.
Albion: 15 Matt Shepherd, 14 Harrison Cully, 13 Seti Raumakita, 12 Joe Simmonds, 11 Matt Crosscombe, 10 Kieran Hallett, 9 Cameron Setter, 1 Tom Cowan-Dickie, 2 Rupert Freestone, 3 Dan Pullinger, 4 Nile Dacres, 5 Ed Holmes, 6 Rupert Cooper, 7 Dan Williams, 8 Herbie Stupple. Reps: Sam Nixon, George Mills, Sam Skinner, Dean Squire, Will Norton.