May 31, 2009
England RU Counties XV cleared the first significant hurdle on the eve of their three-match trip to Korea and Japan when all 10 of their players involved in yesterday's County Championships finals at Twickenham came through unscathed.
The only post-match concern surrounded Lancashire and Manchester prop Rob O'Donnell, who needed attention to a neck injury, but he returned to Manchester for treatment and was due to team up with the rest of the squad today.
"Watching those games was a very nerve-wracking experience for everyone involved with the Counties XV, but happily there were no serious injury issues to deal with and we can fly out tonight for Seoul with our selected squad fully intact." said Manager Danny Hodgson.
The Counties XV, the representative rugby flagship of the County and Community game outside the Guinness Premiership, will be breaking new ground by becoming the first senior England team to play in Korea and the first Counties team to visit Japan.
"We're all very excited about the trip and determined to make it a success," said Hodgson: "There was real enthusiasm from every player when I rang to confirm their selection and I know they are going to be great ambassadors for England and the Rugby Football Union.
"Our obvious objective is to win all three games, to maintain the Counties ethos of playing attractive, ambitious rugby and to help to develop a new bunch of players.
"There is always a thrill of anticipation at this point in the tour and we are heading for an exciting destination which adds to the sense of expectation.
"Avoiding last-minute injury problems has been a welcome boost and now we get down to the challenging business of knitting a group of relative strangers together into a well-organised team.
"We have 14 players who have not been part of the Counties squad before and with only a couple of days to get organised, our coaches Dave Baldwin and Tom Borthwick will have their work cut out, especially when we are dealing with a lengthy journey and different time zones.
"Once again we will be looking to stick to our philosophy of playing attractive, enterprising Rugby. It's what the players want to play and because of that, it's not difficult getting them to buy into the idea.
"We have another group of high-quality players and our coaches are very excited at the prospect of working with them.
"Our tour captain Matt Long has been with us before and his experience of the trip to Argentina in 2005 will stand him in good stead. He's widely respected within the game and since he's been on a previous Counties tour, he knows what's expected.
"The tour captaincy, of course, brings no guarantees of selection and he will have to compete for his place like everyone else, but he's the kind of player who will do a good job as captain."
England Counties squad: Backs: Chris Bishay (Wasps & Middlesex), Gareth Collins (Leicester Lions & Warwickshire), Nick Royle (Fylde & Lancashire), James Aston (unattached & North Midlands), Jack Harrison (Tynedale & Northumberland), Patrick Leach (Manchester & Cheshire), Kyle Dench (Otley & Yorkshire), Steve Parsons (Otley & Yorkshire), Mark Woodrow (Birmingham & Solihull & Gloucestershire), Tom Eaton (Manchester & Cheshire), Tom Richardson (Stourbridge & Berkshire), Huw Thomas (Nuneaton & Warwickshire).
Forwards: Chris Rowland (Clifton & Somerset), Rob O'Donnell (Sale & Lancashire), Joe Graham (Tynedale & Cumbria), Owen Hambley (Redruth & Cornwall), Matthew Long (Birmingham & Solihull & Gloucestershire), Peter Joyce (Redruth & Cornwall), Matt Owen (Manchester & Cheshire), Paul Ralph (Manchester & Cheshire), Mike Howard (Bedford & Eastern Counties), Eni Gesinde (Tynedale & Northumberland), Chris Rainbow (Hertford & Hertfordshire), Wayne Sprangle (Plymouth Albion & Somerset), Sebastian Moss (Manchester & Lancashire), Jason Smithson (Blaydon & Northumberland).
Friday, June 5 - Korea President's XV v England Counties at Seongnam Stadium, Seoul.
Monday, June 8 - East Japan v England Counties in Tokyo
Friday, June 12 - Yamaha Jubilo v England Counties at Yamaha Resort Tsumagoi