Plymouth Albion recall big guns for cup contest
CANADIAN internationals Aaron Carpenter, Sean-Michael Stephen and Brett Beukeboom all return for Plymouth Albion as they name a strong line-up to take on Aberavon at home tomorrow night in the British & Irish Cup (7.45pm).
Albion managed to squeeze a narrow 21-20 win over the Welsh Premiership strugglers at the Talbot Athletic Ground last Saturday to keep alive their faint hopes of progressing from Pool 7.
But Nat Saumi has made eight changes to that team as he looks for a big home performance ahead of their Championship clash against the Cornish Pirates on Boxing Day.
As well as Carpenter, Stephen and Beukeboom, also returning to the team are Keni Fisilau, Jon Vickers, Tom Bowen, Ien Ascroft-Leigh and Lewis Warner.
"We've tried to select a strong team as we have got a long time before the Pirates game – I think it is 10 days – and players need game-time," said head coach Nat Saumi.
Albion do not include any Exeter dual-registered players in their starting line-up, although Will Carrick-Smith and Lloyd Fairbrother are on the bench.
Carrick-Smith could make his home debut for Albion tomorrow night having only previously featured in the away cup games at Aberavon and Rotherham.
Also on the bench is fit-again experienced utility back Paul Bailey.
Bailey broke his hand against Jersey at the start of last month and required surgery.
But he has recovered faster than expected, much to the delight of Albion.
"He has done a fitness test this week and he did very well," said Saumi. "His fitness levels have not changed.
"He is one of the elder statesmen of the team and it is good to have his experience back, especially with Henry Slade away at an England Under-20 training camp this week."
Lock Ascroft-Leigh and centre Toby Howley-Berridge will both be looking to put in another good performance with their current contracts coming to an end this month. The pair arrived at the club on trial in the summer and Albion initially offered both of them deals to the end of the year.
When asked if the club had decided whether to extend their contracts, Saumi said: "We'll decide at the end of the month. We still have a couple of games to play. We'll decide after those.
"They have been training and performing well. Hopefully we will keep them for the rest of the season."
Albion team to face Aberavon: Rhodri McAtee, Lewis Warner, Toby Howley-Berridge, Keni Fisilau, Tom Bowen, Paul Roberts, Paul Rowley, Ben Rogers, Jon Vickers, David Morton, Brett Beukeboom, Ien Ascroft-Leigh, Sean-Michael Stephen (capt), Sam Matavesi, Aaron Carpenter. Reps: Ruairi Cushion, Bevon Armitage, Will Carrick-Smith, Lloyd Fairbrother, Jamie Salter, Rupeni Nasiga, Paul Bailey.