Skipper excited by start of the new campaign
SEAN-MICHAEL STEPHEN will captain Albion for a third successive season.
And the Canadian international, who has been at Brickfields since September 2008, is hoping this year's campaign will be more memorable than the last two he has had as skipper, where Albion finished in the bottom four.
"It is a good honour to be captain," he said. "I look forward to the challenge and working with the guys."
He added: "I would say this is the most excited I have been about a start of a season since I have been at Albion."
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It would appear that after three seasons of financial struggle and budget cuts, Albion have managed to stablise the club after nearly going out of business last term.
"They (the board) have done a fairly good job in letting us just concentrate on rugby," said Stephen.
"Everything is in order in the office and all the changes have so far been positive for us."
Stephen believes Albion have been able to put together a strong squad for this season.
"I think it is definitely the deepest squad we have had here in a long time," said the Albion skipper.
"There is competition for all spots which is two or three people deep so it is not going to be easy to make the team."
Crucially, Albion, who had some players on two-year contracts from last year, have maintained a number of their core players.
"Some of the key positions, like back-row and half-backs there is some good continuity, which is good and enables us to hit the ground running," said Stephen.
The Canadian international, who has an Irish passport, missed all the pre-season matches after having surgery in the summer on his elbow,
However, he said: "I am fit and ready to go.
"I had an operation on my elbow just to clear it out as I'd had some trouble with it before.
"It was a bit frustrating not to have it done before pre-season started, but, hopefully, it won't cause me any problems now during the season.
"It would have been good to have got a run out before the season started."
Newcastle have come down from the Premiership and Jersey have come up. The pair replace London Welsh and Esher and Stephen knows it will be a tough competition.
"The league seems to be continuing to grow and develop," he said. "All the teams seem to be upping their level. It is definitely going to be a tough league as always."