VIDEO: Plymouth Albion players 'itching' to play says head coach James Shanahan
JAMES SHANAHAN says his Plymouth Albion players are 'itching' to get on the field tomorrow.
Albion begin their pre-season fixtures with a home double-header against Welsh Premiership side Aberavon (3pm) and newly-promoted National Two South side Exmouth (5pm).
The games will be Shanahan's first in charge of Albion after taking over from Nat Saumi as the Championship club's head coach in the summer.
"We've had eight weeks pre-season training so it will be good for the boys to get a hit. I know they are itching to play a game," said former Old Albanian and Cambridge boss Shanahan.
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"We are all really looking forward to it.
"Rain is forecast, but hopefully, it can stay nice and we can get a half decent crowd and have a good day of rugby."
For many of the players it will be the first time they have run out at Brickfields.
Of the 42 players named in the two squads for this week's double-header, 22 have never pulled on an Albion first team shirt before.
A few are guests and trialists but 14 summer signings will be on show.
But Shanahan says it is not just the new players that are excited about running out at Brickfields this weekend.
"We've got a new kit and the we've had the photos done and the boys loved that," he said.
"But now they just want to play.
"I think everyone is really keen and eager. It's new players, old players, new style, new era for Albion."
Shanahan has named two completely separate starting line-ups.
New arrival Eoghan Grace will captain the side in the first match against Aberavon, who Albion beat 59-0 at home in the British & Irish Cup in December.
Grace will form a back-row with fellow new arrival Rob Langley and Herbie Stupple.
Other summer signings Matt Shields, Davy McGregor, Jamie Davies and Ben Woods also feature in the first match.
Sean-Michael Stephen will captain the side against Exmouth, who held Albion to a draw in pre-season last year.
New faces Gareth Evans, John Downey, Pale Nonu, Heath Stevens and Chris Elder will start against Exmouth, as will Shanahan himself.
Shanahan has only played once at Brickfields before – for Cambridge when they lost 37-8 to Albion in the National Trophy.
"I trained here back in the day before any of the stadium was here. It was just a pitch then," said Shanahan.
"But I have only had one game here and that was with Cambridge.
"I'm looking forward to it.
"I have done the pre-season with the boys and with two games we need numbers on the pitch so I will put my boots on and have a run around and see how I go."
Shanahan will also include two forwards – Ollie Cooper-Millar and Pete Kolakowski – from his former club, Old Albanian, against Exmouth.
They are just guesting as Will Carrick-Smith is unavailable this weekend and Harrison Tovey is injured.
Former Albion favourite Wayne Sprangle is another guest, as are Exeter Chiefs players Luke Foran and Alex Spurdle.
But for the permanent players at the club, Shanahan has told them not to read anything into the sides selected for the two matches.
"I told the players that before selection was announced," he told Herald Sport. "It is just two decent sides.
"It gives them maximum amount of time to play as much rugby as they can, instead of trying to pick the best team in theory.
"At the moment I don't know what the best team is.
"We have trained well. The boys have been working really hard, but I need to see now what they do in games when they are under pressure."
Meanwhile, Albion are still waiting to see if Charlie Walker-Blair will accept an offer they have made to him. If he does then he will be added to the replacements for tomorrow's matches.
TEAM TO FACE ABERAVON (3PM)
15 Louis Messer
14 Louis Warner
13 Ben Woods
12 Toby Howley-Berridge
11 Jamie Davies
10 Declan Cusask
9 Paul Rowley
1 Ben Rogers
2 Davy McGregor
3 Matt Shields
4 Ien Ascroft-Leigh
5 Brett Beukeboom
6 Rob Langley
7 Eoghan Grace (capt)
8 Herbie Stupple
Replacements: Luke Foran (guest), Tom Harrison, Charlie Walker-Blair (TBC), Wayne Sprangle (guest), Cameron Setter (trialist), Dan Mugford, Lewis Patterson (trialist), Kyle Speare (trialist)
TEAM TO FACE EXMOUTH (5PM)
15 Chris Elder
14 Tom Bowen
13 Heath Stevens
12 Pale Nonu
11 Jack Arnott
10 James Shanahan
9 Ruairi Cushion
1. David Morton
2 Gareth Evans
3 Lloyd Fairbrother
4 Ollie Cooper-Millar (guest)
5 Pete Kolakowski (guest)
6 Sean-Michael Stephen (c)
7 Sam Matavesi
8 John Downey (trialist)
Replacements: Alex Spurdle (guest), Zac Cinnamond, Charlie Walker-Blair (TBC), Wayne Sprangle (guest), Cameron Setter (trialist), Lewis Patterson (trialist), Kyle Speare (trialist)