Quartet will make their Albion debuts
PLYMOUTH Albion will hand full league debuts to four summer signings when they open their Championship campaign against Doncaster at Brickfields tomorrow (3pm).
Wingers Rhodri McAtee and Tom Bowen, lock Brett Beukeboom and Plymouth-born prop Lloyd Fairbrother will all start the contest.
Fellow new faces Lewis Warner and Harrison Tovey are also named on the bench.
But there is no place in the 22-man squad for the club's three longest-serving players – Keni Fisilau, Ryan Hopkins and Wayne Sprangle – despite all being fit.
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The experienced trio have all been regular first team players in the past.
"It was very tough to pick this team," said Saumi.
"Some guys miss out, but that's the way it is.
"I think the players who are selected will take their chances.
"But the other guys are waiting in the wings for their chance."
On leaving out Fisilau, the club's record league appearance holder, and Hopkins, who has nearly 200 league games to his name at this level, Saumi said: "They are both fit, but I think some of the younger boys have proved themselves well in pre-season.
"Lewis Warner and Jack Andrew have done well.
"I know there is experience there (with Fisilau and Hopkins), but the younger boys have to be rewarded for pushing them.
"I have spoken to them and they are happy with it.
"Keni is a well-respected player within the club and he said these guys have been pushing hard and training well and they have to have a go. That's why Warner is in the squad."
Sean-Michael Stephen is back for Albion after missing the pre-season matches with an elbow injury. He will line-up in the second-row.
Initially he had been due to start on the bench but new Fijian signing Rupeni Nasiga has had to drop out of the starting line-up so Stephen replaces him.
However, Aaron Carpenter will skipper the side tomorrow as he had been named in that role before Stephen was added to the starting line-up.
Like Stephen, fellow forward Sprangle has also missed all the pre-season matches after undergoing an operation in the summer.
But he does not make the squad tomorrow.
Saumi said: "I don't go on past reputations. I will pick people who are on form.
"Sam Hocking has been playing well, but if he doesn't then Wayne is there ready to go again."
Plymouth-born back Henry Slade, who is dual registered with Premiership club Exeter Chiefs, will make only his second league start at Brickfields.
The youngster looked set for a promising season last term after impressing against the Cornish Pirates at home and then against Saturday's opponents, Doncaster, away but then suffered a couple of injuries that ruled him out for the rest of the season.
However, unlike in those games, Slade, who played in this summer's Junior World Cup for England, will start at full-back tomorrow.
"Louis Messer has not fully recovered from his hamstring injury and I don't want to force him into this week," said Saumi.
"So Henry Slade will play at full-back. He has been doing well.
"As a fly-half also he can read the game from the back and it helps him knowing the type of game we are trying to play."
Albion have only lost once on the opening day of the season since 2000.
But Saumi does expect a tough test from Doncaster, who will be keen to make up for losing at Brickfields in December.
"We know them," said Saumi. "They are a team from Yorkshire who will come down and throw themselves about.
"It will be a very physical game. That is what they also provide, so we are expecting a tough battle."
Doncaster could include three former Albion players – Tyson Lewis, Adam Kettle and Dan Smith – in their side.
Lewis only left Brickfields in the summer.
Saumi said: "All past players when you come back with another club there is always something to prove.
"But the boys are looking forward to the challenge."
Albion: Henry Slade, Rhodri McAtee, Paul Bailey, Bevon Armitage, Tom Bowen, Paul Roberts, Paul Rowley, David Morton, Jon Vickers, Lloyd Fairbrother, Sean-Michael Stephen, Brett Beaukeboom, Herbie Stupple, Sam Hocking, Aaron Carpenter (capt). Reps: Ruairi Cushion, Jack Arnott, Lewis Warner, Jack Andrew, Jamie Salter, Harrison Tovey, Sam Matavesi.