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Home > News > England Counties pin faith in fledglings
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Your News England Counties pin faith in fledglings

The England RU Counties XV will field a completely untried back division in a team which will have nine players making their debuts at senior level when they face the USA Eagles A team at Colombia University in New York on Friday (June 6, 2008) in the opening game of their three-match, 14-day tour to the US and Canada.

Only Staffordshire and Manchester centre Scott Rawlings among the starting line-up behind the scrum has previously represented the Counties XV, while Lancashire and Wharfedale scrum-half James Doherty, the youngest player in the party, is the only back on the bench to have a Counties shirt.

In the pack, prop Tim Mathias (Devon & Plymouth Albion) and hooker Liam Wordley (Staffordshire & Blackheath), lock Matt Owen (Cheshire & Manchester), and back row pair James Kellard (Essex & Blackheath) and Mark Evans (North Midlands & Moseley) have previous experience at this level.

“I’ve made it as clear as I can to the lads that the selection of this team will have no bearing on the line-up for the final game of the series against Canada A, which we will be treating as a Test and awarding ‘cap’ ties for players involved,” says Manager Danny Hodgson: “Our aim is to give every player a start in the first two matches so that they can all make a claim for the final game.

“Obviously players who are not involved at all in the opener are disappointed, which is what I would expect and hope, but that is the nature of touring. Of the four lads who are not involved, Johnny Williams is carrying a knock, but responding to treatment, while Dan Hyde played on Sunday and we felt that we’d like to give him some extra rest.

“But I’ve told the players that they must not read anything into this. We have to look at every player and we need to permutate our squad to ensure that we get two strong sides for the opening games and not put all our eggs in one basket. And the miss-out guys this time will definitely start in Match Two.”

One innovation for the Counties XV will be the playing of the game on an artificial pitch at Colombia University, but the surface is IRB approved and regularly used for rugby.

“We needed to check it out to be fair to our players,” said Hodgson: “But everyone is happy and I’m hoping that the surface will produce a speedy game that will suit our style. We have a young, exciting squad that has functioned really well in what we thought might be a very difficult couple of sessions after the long-distance travel.

“The players are buying into what we are trying to do and are very enthusiastic. Whatever minor hiccups occur, they take on the chin and move on, which is at the heart of successful touring.”

Said coach Dave Baldwin: “It was extremely hot today and after the enduring the usual sleep problems, I expected that the sessions might not be too sharp. But the lads really got into it and delivered some very good work. I was very impressed.”

England Counties XV (v USA A in New York, Friday, June 6, 10.30pm GB time): Ben Coulbeck (Cheshire & Manchester); Oliver Brennand (Lancashire & Fylde), Scott Rawlings (Staffordshire/Manchester), Oliver Winter (North Midlands/Moseley), Andrew Fenby (Blaydon/Northumberland); Gavin Beasley(Northumberland/Tynedale), Nathan Jones (Warwickshire/Coventry); Timothy Mathias (Devon/Plymouth), Liam Wordley (Staffordshire/Henley) capt, Philip Boulton (Warwickshire/Bedford Blues), Matthew Owen (Cheshire/Manchester), Stephen Pape (Somerset/Cornish All Blacks), James Kellard (Essex/Blackheath), Michael Denbee (Somerset/Plymouth Albion), Mark Evans (North Midlands/Moseley).

Replacements: Christopher Whitehead (Warwickshire/Coventry), Petrus du Plessis (Lancashire/Sedgley Park), Daniel Collier (Middlesex/London Welsh), Sebastian Moss (Lancashire/Manchester), James Doherty (Lancashire/Wharfedale), Richard Wainwright (Yorkshire/Manchester), Andre Wilson (Cheshire/Manchester).

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