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Plymouth Albion sign England Student international Ben Axten-Burrett

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 10, 2014

Plymouth Albion head coach James Shanahan has added to his squad for the 2014-15 Championship season

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England Student international centre Ben Axten-Burrett has agreed to join Championship side Plymouth Albion next season.

The 21-year-old will move to Brickfields after graduating from Cardiff Metropolitan University this summer.

However, Albion are to lose top try scorer Tom Bowen and Devon prop Ben Rogers.

Bowen’s impressive form for Albion over the past two seasons has seen him offered a full-time contract with the England Sevens squad, while Rogers has agreed to join rivals Jersey next season.

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Bowen has scored 16 league and cup tries for Albion this term and his sensational form alerted England Sevens selectors, who believe he could be a key player for them on the IRB World Series tour. Now that rugby sevens is an Olympic sport, Bowen could have a chance of forcing his way into the Great Britain squad for the 2016 Games in Brazil.

Albion head coach James Shanahan admitted Bowen’s departure will be a big loss but is delighted that last season’s young player of the year has the chance to represent his country.

“It is disappointing for us, but what an opportunity for Tom,” said Shanahan. “He’s going to represent his country and travel the world. Playing on the sevens circuit is an outstanding lifestyle. Tom has been great for us this year. He has scored a lot of tries.

“He has worked very hard at his game, especially defensively. The way we have played has also suited him and has got him the opportunity to showcase his skills. It was always going to be hard for us to keep hold of Tom. There was a lot of Premiership interest and interest from other Championship clubs with bigger budgets than ours.

“But I’m a lot happier he is going to play for England Sevens instead of going to another Championship club or going to a Premiership club and making up the numbers.”

Bowen will join fellow key players Sean-Michael Stephen, Heath Stevens, Dan Mugford, Chris Elder and Gareth Evans in leaving this summer.

“Tom is going to be tough to replace, as are Sean-Michael Stephen and Heath Stevens,” said Shanahan. “Those boys have been great for us this season.”

Prop Rogers is leaving after an injury-hit campaign in which the Devonian has made just seven starts and eight replacement appearances in all competitions this term.

Shanahan said: “I think Ben is a very promising up-and-coming prop, but he’s had injuries all season that have restricted his game-time.

“I just was not in a position where I felt comfortable enough to offer him a new contract as I had not seen enough of him. When he said he’d had an offer from Jersey and was going to take it, I wished him all the best.”

Shanahan is delighted to have signed former Harlequins Academy player Axten-Burrett. The centre was recommended to Shanahan by former Newport Gwent Dragons director of rugby Paul Turner.

“He can spot a good player and told me to have a look at this guy,” said Shanahan. “So I had a look, did my research, met him and I was keen to sign him. He will add something different to our midfield.

“We’ve been very physical and confrontational and that has got us over the gain-line, which has been great, but Ben will just add a bit of creativity and flair with his passing and kicking game.”

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