For many a season the term ‘acid test’ would rarely have been applied to Plymouth Albion.
But the winds of change have blown through the Devon club with new investment and a renewed belief transforming perennial Championship strugglers into the second tier’s surprise package.
On home territory this season they have beaten all three Yorkshire clubs that have ventured south. Hence why their visit to Clifton Lane today in the second weekend of British and Irish Cup fixtures will be an acid test of Rotherham Titans’ credentials in the competition.
Andre Bester wants to do well in the Cup, and after picking up a win over Aberavon in Wales last weekend, he is hoping his side continue their own good form against the rejuvenated Greens.
“Plymouth have been more professional in their approach than they have been before,” he said when asked for his views on why Albion are surprise top-four contenders this term.
“They’ve had new investment and because of that they now have a bigger squad than they have had before.
“They’ve benefitted from a good working relationship with Exeter Chiefs with the dual-registered players they have.
“It’s amazing what all that can contribute to – a good team spirit and good results.
“They’ve always been a plucky side and have always been difficult to break down.
“This year they’ve been able to make half-breaks and a full-breaks and are playing with a little bit more width.”
Bester has kept faith with the same 22-man squad that won in Wales. Fergus Mulchrone moves from outside centre to full-back, relegating Mike Whitehead to the bench. Eamonn Sheridan moves to outside centre from inside centre, with Lee Blackett returning to the starting 15.
“We are taking this competition very seriously. We want to give players something to play for right through the season,” he said.
“Top four in the Championship is the priority, but we want to combine that with being very competitive in the British and Irish Cup.”