Mugford relishing the battle for fly-half spot
THERE are going to be a lot of battles for shirts at Plymouth Albion this season.
However, possibly the most interesting one to watch will be the fight to wear the crucial number 10 shirt.
Not since Alex Davies, Kieran Hallett and Mark Lee were fighting for it has the shirt not virtually picked itself.
But this year Declan Cusack, Dan Mugford and head coach James Shanahan are all competing for it.
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Cusack's injury in pre-season has set him back a bit but once he is fully fit again, there could be some selection headaches.
Mugford has joined Albion this summer after two years at London Scottish.
He is orginally from Devon and came through Exeter Chiefs' academy.
However, he turned down Exeter at 18 years old to join Cambridge in National Division One.
He had a full season playing senior men's rugby before being picked up by Scottish.
Mugford was the Exiles' top scorer on their return to English rugby's second tier in 2011/12, but he found himself out of favour last season and was loaned out to Blackheath and Roslyn Park in Division One.
But last season's disappointment has only fuelled Mugford's hunger to prove himself in the Championship with Albion.
"My personal target is to just play as much rugby as I can," said the 21-year-old.
"I didn't play an awful lot last season, so I would like to get here and make my stamp on Plymouth Albion.
"I want to get out there (on the field) as much as possible and do the best I can for the side."
He added: "It is always disappointing when you are not playing. You train hard but for one reason or another you are not being picked.
"But that frustration has just egged me on more for this year.
"It has made me push myself harder and, hopefully, that will show out on the pitch.
"I'm sure some people had a few doubts as I was not playing last year so I can't wait to be back on the pitch in the Championship and proving what I can do."
Mugford is certainly relishing being back in his native Devon.
"It is always nice to get back home to where you grew up," he said.
"Being back in Devon playing my rugby is a big lift for me.
"My family and friends can come and watch.
"I'm really looking forward to being down here as long as possible."
On what he thinks he can offer this season, Mugford said: "I like to play quite flat and try and create for the players around me.
"The running game of rugby that Shanners (Shanahan) is trying to bring in here I think will really suit me.
"Goal-kicking is also a strength of mine, so hopefully, I can get a few points on the board this year and push us up to where we want to be in the table."
Mugford knows he will have to work hard to keep Cusack and Shanahan out of the side, but he believes they can all help each other.
"I did not know a whole lot about Dec (Cusack) before moving here, but I knew about Shanners as I'd played against him a few times and he's definitely a very good player, even at his age.
"But Dec has really impressed me since I've been here.
"We have got a great relationship where we are pushing each other all the time, but it is very friendly. There is a great bond here between us.
"It's great to have that – pushing each other on but helping each other out when we can do. Hopefully, that will help the side."
But is having the club coach playing your position a help or a hindrance?
"I think it is a help," said Mugford. "He knows exactly the pressures you are under.
"It's great because you can sit down with him after games and look at the video and he knows where you are coming from and he can help. He knows how to control a game and what to do when."
He added: "There are times when you do feel under pressure wondering if you have done that okay but I think working with him will help me push on my game this year."
No position on a rugby field quite carries the same pressure as being fly-half and goal-kicker.
But Mugford says he enjoys that.
"It is a position that is always going to be in the spotlight," he said. "You are out there to be the general and boss the team around.
"If the team is not winning or not performing it comes back to you. Are you doing your job right?
"But the pressure that comes with the role is a nice thing for me. I like the pressure. I like being in the spotlight.
"When you win you get the accolades. When you lose you might get a few people saying nasty things but that's all part of the job. You just have to keep your head down and keep doing what you can and keep working."