Plymouth Albion back for pre-season training and ready for 42 Commando test


The sun is shining, the sky is blue and finally, summer is with us. Then it’s time to break out the shades, slather on some suntan oil, and just relax and enjoy the nice weather.

That’s not the case for Plymouth Albion, as the players are back for pre-season training. I think it’s more accurate to call it the Albi pre-season ‘experience’ as the team will be spending time with Her Majesty’s best at 42 Commando for some extra team building work .

Having experienced my fair share of “bootneck prep” with the guys at Commando Training Center in Lympstone, I can testify firsthand, it’s definitely an experience to remember.

Not only will the guys be taken to their physical limits and beyond, but they will experience this unique team that morphs into the “band of brothers” so essential in frontline military service and in the trenches of sport. elite level.

Without a doubt, it was a difficult season for Albion last season. Forming 16 new individual players into a cohesive team unit took time. Adopting the style and patterns of play of our new coaches, Damien and Ryan, was also a time-consuming exercise.

Add to that kicking off after a two-year Covid shutdown and it’s no surprise Ocean City’s best have found things difficult in National League One rugby.

Injuries have often reduced our matchday squad to just 17 fit players. Tight heading props were needed on the bench as backline substitutes and power forward Herbie Stupple had to play in the middle.

No wonder then that Albi struggled for the wins. Relegation posed a serious threat to our master plan and our determination to build a successful and sustainable Heritage Club.

It was a tight race, but the players held on, lessons were learned and management kept their cool. There was no panic buying expensive talent outside of our budgets. No, the club remained firm in its intentions, our players became a small but uncompromising team.

That “band of brothers” emotion so essential and appreciated by our military friends has begun to show green shoots of life in the colors of Albion.

When all seemed lost in a procession of matches, Albion’s players dug deep, gave it their all until the final whistle and managed to collect four try bonus points that kept us going.

Few will forget that magnificent 54-17 win over the Taunton Titans in April when our league status was secured. It was a testament to the development of the team and the club during a very difficult season. Let’s not forget that Taunton passed us the sword on their ground four months ago.

It is often said that the darkest hour is just before dawn. Learning from this adage and from last season’s character building experience and reality is that Plymouth Albion can build a quality rugby club capable of competing and winning on the big stage of elite level rugby.

What’s more, we can and we will do it within the enduring framework of our “Heritage Club” vision. Project 150 is now in motion and already progressing well, laying the groundwork capable of bringing us back to the IPA Championship when we celebrate our 150th anniversary.

It is interesting to look back over the history of rugby to see how the game has developed over the years. Most people remember the name Jonah Lomu. The giant All Black winger was one of the world’s first rugby superstars. Unfortunately, we lost Jonah to illness at the tender age of 40.

Rugby has given us many great men including another, the legendary Phil Bennet, who died last week. For those unfamiliar with Phil’s incredible skills, simply google his name on YouTube and watch “that try” again generally accepted as the greatest of all time when the Barbarians beat the previously indomitable All Blacks of 1973 .

I had the privilege of meeting Phil a few years ago. He shared memories with me and my dad of the Halcyon days of 1970s rugby when magician Llanelli delighted millions with his devastating skills, searing acceleration and that incredible side step. RIP Phil.

Earlier this year a statue of Phil was unveiled in his home village of Felinfoel, near Llanelli. The community raised funds for the wooden statue to celebrate Phil’s huge contribution to his community, the Scarlets and Welsh rugby.

Former Wales center Tom Shanklin remarked: “The statue should have been engraved in gold rather than wood!”

Building traditions and a rugby dynasty takes time. Plymouth Albion already has a fine track record and traditions that span 148 years.

Plymouth also have a rugby legend to boast. I refer to Jimmy Peters of Albion. He was the first black man to play rugby for England and England’s only black player until 1988.

Jimmy’s life was tough and demanding, but he managed to break through the barriers to achieve great success.

The primary aim of Project 150 is to celebrate Albion’s history with a triumphant return to elite-level Championship rugby. Many elements and caveats are built into the plan.

One of them is to honor the memory of Jimmy Peters with a statue in Brickfields. We have launched the Jimmy Statue initiative and will report on progress here in due course. Watch this place.

We have a lot to learn from our military brothers and these legends of the game who marked the history of rugby. An elite level rugby club is a complex living organism with many parts.

Albion’s plan is to harness the natural talent, energy and vibrancy of our own Plymouth community. Yes, there will be prestige marquee imports, but Albion’s core will be built from within, on the solid foundations of Plymouth.

The bottom line, however, and the motto of a rugby club is defined by results on the pitch. I’m happy to report that Albion will not be starting next season as a fledgling team featuring 16 new players looking to find their form and identity.

Damien and Ryan managed to retain no less than 24 players from last year’s roster. Let’s remember that these guys, often reduced to just 17 in-form players, in adversity earned 17 out of a possible 25 points in the race at the end of the season.

The future is bright – the future of Plymouth rugby is Albion!


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