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Plymouth Albion sign New Zealand lock from Exeter Chiefs

By HeraldSport  |  Posted: December 11, 2013

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PLYMOUTH Albion have signed Exeter Chiefs New Zealander Romana Graham on loan ahead of Friday's crunch British & Irish Cup clash with Munster.

Lock Graham, a New Zealand Maori, is pitched straight into the Championship club’s match in Ireland.

Graham will add presence to Albion’s ranks.

Albion had hoped the 6ft 6in Graham would be joined by Chiefs’ Fijian international Sireli Naqelevuki, who can play wing or centre.

But the Premiership club said that the Fijian would not be joining Albion because of issues over his visa papers.

A Chiefs spokesman said: “Romana just needs some game-time – he’s played only four cup games for us since he arrived.”

Graham’s short-term loan is expected to last a month.

The 27-year-old joined Chiefs earlier this season from Super 15 outfit Chiefs.

Since arriving at Sandy Park, the forward has featured just twice for the club, both times in LV= Cup matches against Harlequins and Bath,.

Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter is keen to get the imposing Graham match-ready for a crucial period of fixtures before and after Christmas.

“We need to get game minutes into Romana,” said Baxter.

“It’s good that we have a working relationship with Plymouth Albion and we know the situation will benefit all parties.”

Albion team boss James Shanahan said: “We’ve had a couple of knocks and niggles. The new player is eligible for our cup game in Ireland, so he’ll be in the squad.”

Shanahan insists his team will be going for any kind of win they can grind out in the British & Irish Cup, winner-takes-all match on Friday.

Albion have the chance of reaching the competition’s quarter-finals if they win on Friday night at Munster.

They defeated the Irish side 17-7 at Brickfields last Friday to set up a fascinating second encounter.

Shanahan is steeling himself for the Irish response to that defeat.

If Albion win in Ireland on Friday, they are virtually in the last eight with two group matches left.

If the Irish side win, it could be them, not Plymouth, who line-up in the quarter-finals.

“A good performance would be nice, but this week it will be about just winning,” said Shanahan.

“If we win this game, we go top of the group, but if we don’t get the result, we’ll be fighting with Munster to go through.”

Shanahan added: “I thought we put in a better performance last week and hopefully we can continue that.

“It will be tough in Munster’s back yard.

“They are a very physical side and they’ve got a lot of pace in their team.

“We created opportunities against them last week, but we didn’t take them.

“I think we can expect the backlash at Munster, with them lifting their game by 25 per cent, which we’ve got to do as well.”

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