Plymouth Albion duo Sean-Michael Stephen and Herbie Stupple sign new deals
PLYMOUTH Albion have received a timely boost today with news that club captain Sean-Michael Stephen and fellow back-row forward Herbie Stupple have extended their contracts at Brickfields.
Canadian international Stephen, who joined Albion in 2008, has committed himself until the summer of 2014, while Stupple, currently out with a long-term injury, has signed on until 2015.
The Championship club, who face unbeaten table-toppers Newcastle Falcons tonight, say they are also negotiating with other players about new contracts.
In recent years, due to the club's troubled financial situation and the relegation play-offs, Albion have not been able to offer new deals to players until the end of the season.
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That led to many of the club's best players moving on to rival teams.
But Albion, who suffered their sixth loss in seven matches last weekend when they went down 21-8 to Bristol in a game marred by a mass brawl, say they are now in a position to return to the days of getting key personnel signed up before they can officially talk to rival sides.
Chairman Graham Stirling said: "This is really good news for Albion, particularly after the difficult financial circumstances experienced at the end of last year.
"This is the first time for many years that Plymouth Albion have made a decision so early in the season about the squad for the next season."
Head coach Nat Saumi is delighted to see that Stephen and Stupple have committed their futures to Albion, who currently sit sixth in the Championship table.
Fijian Saumi, who will be discussing his own future once his family arrive in England for Christmas, said: "Sean-Michael has been with the club since 2008 and adds great stability to the team.
"He has captained Plymouth Albion for the last two seasons and is greatly respected by his team-mates.
"Herbie made a great impact at the beginning of this season, before picking up an injury but we firmly believe this signing is great news for the club."
Stupple initially joined Albion in 2011 on a season-long dual registered agreement from Exeter Chiefs.
He made the move permanently this summer.
He only made two appearances this term before breaking a bone in his shoulder that required surgery and is likely to keep him out until March.
Stephen, who was the club's official player of the year in 2011-12, has started all Albion's game this season and has been in excellent form, but misses tonight's match at Newcastle due to a neck injury.
Stephen has played 91 Championship games for the club.
He would have clocked more than a century of league appearances had it not been for injury and international call-ups.
The news that Stephen and Stupple have committed their futures to the club will be welcomed at Brickfields following a bad week for the club.
They and Bristol are both expected to be called to appear in front of an RFU disciplinary panel for bringing the game into disrepute following last Saturday's brawl between the teams at Brickfields.