1st XV Match Preview V Plymouth Albion (h) Fri 09/03/2012 

The Big Match Preview - by Glyn Barlow

 

So the waiting is over and the “mini” season starts this Friday. It’s do or die time over six weekends as Moseley, Plymouth, London Scottish and Esher fight it out to see which club remains part of the Championship next year.

 Old Plymouth Game Photo

Like it or loath it (and let’s face it, most loath it) the playoffs add a certain drama to the last few weeks of the season. Unfortunately they also add a great deal of uncertainty and disruption to a club’s ability to plan for the future. With the relegated team receiving £300,000 less support from the RFU it’s a tough call for any of the four clubs to start their recruitment process before the final outcome of Pool C is known. This immediately puts them at a disadvantage from those teams in Pools A & B where, apart from the small minority that may be in with a chance of promotion, clubs are able to budget with certainty and sign up the players they want well in advance of the playoffs.

 

That Moseley will have been through this process twice before and have still managed to pull together a competitive squad is no small testament to the skills of the coaching team. To break this cycle, however, clubs need to be able to compete on an even footing when it comes to building squads for the future. Whispers abound that the RFU might be beginning to listen to reason that the current structure for the season is not working and it needs to be changed. Let’s hope then that they see sense and return to a more logical approach with the club which has the least number of points at the end of the season being relegated.

 

The visit of Plymouth Albion on Friday will be the fourth encounter between the two sides this season having already met in the league and B&I Cup with honours currently in Moseley’s favour 2 - 1.

 

Wed 21st Sept

Moseley

29 – 25

Plymouth

Fri 28th Oct

Plymouth

21 – 20

Moseley

Fri 27th Jan

Moseley

9 – 3

Plymouth

 

Last season the two teams also met in the Pool C playoffs with Plymouth winning at Brickfields and Moseley victorious at Billesley Common.

 

If anything can be interpreted from the results this season it is how close the two teams are in terms of ability with only a nine point advantage being handed to Moseley over the three games. The tension generated by playoff rugby will lead to another hard fought encounter this time.

 

Plymouth has been facing a very tough time in recent weeks trying to make good a serious shortfall in funding. Many initiatives are in place to resolve this and we wish them well in their endeavours. This challenge has not distracted them from the task in hand with ex Fijian international Nat Saumi being appointed as the new head coach.

 

The recent addition of England U20 wing Jack Arnott has been tempered by the loss, for the rest of the season, of Tongan Centre Keni Fisilau to an 18 week ban and lock Dan Collier to injury.

 

Moseley will be looking to capitalise on the hard work that saw them receive praise for their performances in their last two league games against top of the table opposition. Although no wins were forthcoming the coaches will be pleased at how competitively the squad played.

 

The successful integration of Glyn Hughes into the fly half’s shirt will give the coaches the interesting prospect of choosing from three players with contrasting skill sets in this position. The return of the impressive centre pairing of Greg King and Andy Reay, with Jack Adams pushing hard for a starting place, should allow Brad Hunt and Anthony Carter to move back to their preferred positions and restore a backline configuration that has proved to be very effective throughout the season.

 

With the back row being further enhanced by the addition of James Tyas, James Ingle and the return of Ben Pons from injury Craig West will be spoilt for choice in this area. Craig must also be pleased by the recent form of prop Marshall Gadd, who after a quiet start to the season is proving to be an impressive asset in the scrum.

 

With plenty of experience in the playoffs to call on Moseley will be aiming to get the required wins as early as possible and avoid the prospect of a “must win” scenario on the last week of play. With Esher coming good in recent weeks and London Scottish and Plymouth both proving their abilities earlier in the season, Moseley will be taking nothing for granted as to how easy this will be.

 

The squad clearly has the ability to secure a place in the Championship next season, now is the time for the players to show us all how good they really can be.