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Saumi decides upon major reshuffle in quest to tame Falcons

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

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Plymouth Albion will make no fewer than seven changes to their team which lost at home to Bristol last weekend for tomorrow's trip to unbeaten Championship leaders Newcastle Falcons.

Head coach Nat Saumi has handed first Championship starts to young forwards Sam Matavesi and Tom Cowan-Dickie, while there are also returns for Rhodri McAtee, Lewis Warner, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Canada international pair Brett Beukeboom and Aaron Carpenter.

Making way through either injury, tiredness, loss of form or suspension are captain Sean-Michael Stephen, Paul Roberts, Bevon Armitage, Wayne Sprangle, Jon Vickers, Rupeni Nasiga, while Jack Andrew has been suspended by Albion for three weeks after picking up a red card for his part in a brawl against Bristol last week.

Stephen, Armitage, Vickers and Roberts have all started every league match for Albion this season. Stephen (neck) and Armitage (ankle) are struggling with injuries, while Vickers and Roberts take a rest on the bench.

It will be the first league game Armitage has missed since joining Albion in the summer of 2011. "Some players have not played well, some have played well but have played every game," Saumi explained. "I just think it is good for some new boys to come and stake a claim.

Saumi added: "We have not found any consistency and I think maybe a bit of complacency has been creeping in, But going into the next round [second half of the season] everything will be based on individual performances."

Henry Slade will start at fly-half at Kingston Park. It will be his first chance to wear Albion's number ten shirt for more than a year.

He started there twice early last season, but was then injured and missed the rest of the campaign, and this season he has been playing full-back.

However, the Plymouth-born dual registered back did impress at fly-half for Exeter Chiefs in their LV= Cup games against London Welsh and Ospreys and he gets his chance to try to repeat that form against the former Premiership club.

"Paul Roberts has been playing well, but this is a chance for Henry to have a go at ten," said Saumi. The Albion boss is also hoping hooker Tom Cowan-Dickie and Sam Matavesi will take their opportunities on their full league debuts.

Both players have made five replacement appearances for Albion in the Championship and have started cup matches, but they have never started a league game.

"These boys have been training very well," said Saumi. "It will be good to see them having a start in the league. Hopefully, they will take their opportunities."

Saumi is pleased to be able to welcome back Beukeboom and Carpenter following international duty for Canada.

The Albion boss hopes that Beukeboom's return will help with the line-out problems they had against Bristol. "We have spent a lot of time on the line-out in training," said Saumi. "Hopefully, Brett coming back should help as he is in charge of the line-out."

Despite the fact that Carpenter was named Albion's vice-captain at the start of the season, Sam Hocking will skipper the side in Stephen's absence tomorrow.

Saumi said: "Aaron is just coming back into the team, so we thought we would give it to Sam for the time being as he has been a very consistent performer for us."

Plymouth Albion: McAtee; Warner, Howley-Berridge, Fisilau, Bowen; Slade, Cushion; L Cowan-Dickie, T Cowan-Dickie, Fairbrother; Beukeboom, Tovey; Hocking (capt), Matavesi, Carpenter. Replacements: Roberts, Arnott, Morton, Rogers, Vickers, Ascroft-Leigh, Nasiga.

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