The Ocean Cities’ finest face a stern challenge this week with 612-mile round trip to Wirral based Caldy RFC. On the back of the stellar last-minute win over Blackheath, the visit to the league leaders will provide something of a ‘free hit’ for Albion. Not many would have expected this to be the case at the beginning of the season but former Harlequins hooker Matty Cairns has revolutionised the northern club.
Spearheaded by the Dickinson brothers up front, Caldy have been the surprise package of the National Division this term and fully warrant their heady position. With veteran England 7’s star Nick Royle on the wing, they certainly play a very exciting style with offloads aplenty on the back of hard direct carries.
Earlier in the season, they caught a complacent Albion, who were on the back of a two-game win streak, to run away with a well deserved 7-26 win. On that day, the ‘Ravers’ drove down on the day for the game and ensured a positive night on the Barbican. Albion will hope to return the favour on their visit to Paton fields.
The starting XV for Albion shows a few changes from the late, late show of last week. Danny Southworth being called up by Exeter Chiefs is covered by the return of Georgian powerhouse Ramaz Rukhadze. Meanwhile, injuries to Shek Sheriff and Ed Scragg sees Jake Clemson move from blindside into the second row. Cornishman Torin Clarke steps up to cover the backrow where he joins the ever-dependable George Mills and Herbie Stupple.
In the backline, Mr reliable Tom Putt stays at 10 with Phil Jones remaining in the centre alongside Jeremy To’a. The big change is in the back three where Scotland under 20 cap Connor Eastgate returns after a hip injury to replace Craig Duncan (Navy duty) and Frankie Nowell also jumps back in following the withdrawal of Shea Cornish.
Eagle-eyed supporters of Albion will be delighted to see a certain ‘L Chapman’ amongst the reserves as the fan favourite prop returns from what was considered a career-ending achillies injury just over 2 years ago. Sadly, with a few players out on loan and Chiefs call ups, the bench will be one light for the game.
Albion have never lost at Caldy and, although the league table certainly doesn’t lean in their favour, there is a fair deal of optimism within the camp following the solid home form seen since the new year.
Caldy v Albion
Paton Fields 3pm