Experienced Tongan Keni Fisilau recalled for Plymouth Albion's big game with Jersy
PLYMOUTH Albion recall their most experienced player for their biggest match of the season so far.
Long-serving Tongan centre Keni Fisilau, Albion's record league appearance holder, returns to the starting line-up for their must-win match against fellow strugglers Jersey tomorrow after impressing as a replacement at Nottingham last weekend.
Albion are looking to end an eight-match losing run in the league tomorrow and at the same time all-but mathematically secure their place in next season's Championship.
For such a big game, coach Nat Saumi has opted for experience with Fisilau, in his 12th season at Albion, and new arrival Declan Cusack coming into the backs for youngsters Lewis Warner and Tom Bowen.
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Rhodri McAtee and Toby Howley-Berridge move to the wings as Albion, who also welcome back prop Jack Andrew, look to improve on their defence.
Although Albion have scored 14 tries in their last four games, they have conceded four tries in each one of those matches.
And coach Nat Saumi admits his team have to tighten up.
"This week we have worked hard on our defence," he said.
"It is good to score tries, but we have been losing all these close games because we have been leaking them.
"Hopefully, we will put that right on Saturday."
He added: "I have got some experience in the team.
"Our defence has been leaking and we know that Keni is a good defensive player. He gets organised in defence and it is good to have him coming back alongside Bevon. There is experience there with those two.
"The two young boys that have been doing well – Lewis Warner and Tom Bowen – will be on the bench and there will be a time to bring them on and use their pace."
Saumi, though, insisted Albion were not going defensive.
"We will still be playing attacking rugby," said Saumi. "Attack-wise we have been doing well – just look at the number of tries we have been scoring – but we have to look after our defensive system also.
"We have got Toby (Howley-Berridge), Rhodri (McAtee) and Declan (Cusack) who are good ball runners and carriers, so we will also be playing attacking rugby."
A win for Albion could see them move up to 15 points clear of Jersey and 17 ahead of bottom club Doncaster with just four games to go.
However, defeat to Jersey, coupled with a Doncaster win over Rotherham, could leave Albion just seven points above the drop zone with only one of their remaining four games at home – and that is against leaders Newcastle.
Saumi knows the importance of tomorrow's fixture.
"The boys just have to stay focused to get the result that we need," he said.
Saumi hopes his team can make a good start tomorrow after finding themselves 14 or more points behind in the first half of their last four games.
At the start of the season Albion were starting matches strongly and then hanging on at the end, but in the last month it has been role reversal.
"It is down to confidence," said the Albion boss, who hopes his team can put it right this weekend.
Meanwhile, Saumi has refused to be drawn on the issue of his future at Albion.
The Fijian's contract runs out of the end of the season and speculation has been rife about his future at the club following chairman Graham Stirling's quotes in a national newspaper at the start of last month that Saumi's position had been reviewed follow a poor run of results.
Saumi said this week: "I'm just focused on results for the time being. I am not dwelling on next season yet."
Albion: Declan Cusack, Toby Howley-Berridge, Keni Fisilau, Bevon Armitage, Rhodri McAtee, Paul Roberts, Ruairi Cushion (c), Jack Andrew, Jon Vickers, Lloyd Fairbrother, Brett Beukeboom, Harrison Tovey, Sean-Michael Stephen, Sam Hocking, Aaron Carpenter. Reps: Paul Rowley, Tom Cowan-Dickie, David Morton, Sam Matavesi, Herbie Stupple, Lewis Warner, Tom Bowen