- 37-year-old prob Matt Long to captain Counties tour of Canada
- "It's about all mucking in and everyone buying into what we're doing" - Long
Photo: Russell Ashworth
Gloucestershire and Birmingham Solihull prop Matt Long will lead the England Counties XV again when they play three matches in Canada during a 14-day trip.
The former Bristol, Newcastle Falcons and Moseley player, the senior player in the 26-man squad, captained the Counties on their highly acclaimed unbeaten trip to Korea and Japan last year and Manager Danny Hodgson had no hesitation in handing him the job once again:
"Matt did a great job for us last year in every respect and played a huge part in helping us put together a very successful tour - probably the best the Counties have ever had.
"He's an experienced leader, a quality player and a person who commands respect from everyone in the management and coaching team and the players. I'm delighted he's with us again and know he'll do a good job."
Long celebrated his 37th birthday last week but is keen to stress that the passion never dies with age: "Last year was a great tour that went very well, so to be asked again is a great privilege.
"To be invited to lead your country at any time is good , but especially when you're a bit older like myself and I'm very glad to do it.
"I've captained quite a lot of teams and tours are slightly different. We have a lot of young lads on a trip where there is quite a lot of travelling and it's important for everyone to buy into the fact that you've got to be on schedule and everybody has got to pile in and get things done.
"That's what I've said. If everybody gets fully involved, we can create more time for ourselves to see the country we're in. It's about all mucking in and everyone buying into what we're doing for two weeks.
"It's a big thing to get everyone together very quickly and getting all the players to know each other on and off the field is going to be a big challenge and a very important factor in being successful.
"We've only got four days to gel before we play together, so we have to be switched on for every session and we have to work hard on getting to know each other.
"we can do even better than last year" - Long
"In terms of our potential, you don't know until you meet at the hotel, who's going to be fit and involved. But it seems in looking at the clubs the lads are from that there's some really good material.
"We've got some good boys up front and the backs look very useful and I'm sure if we all buy into the ethos of the trip we can do even better than last year.
"It's all down to how we play together and create a style. They're all very good rugby players otherwise they wouldn't be on the trip in the first place.
"And you have to recognise that this is as good as it gets for rugby players. To be on tour representing your country in a foreign land with a group of talented players like this is a tremendous experience. It's why people like me keep playing."
However, the enthusiasm of Long and his team was sorely tested on arrival in Newfoundland, where the weather was so bad that a diversion away from St John's airport seemed probable early in the flight because of strong winds, heavy rain and fog.
While the weather abated sufficiently to avoid a switch, bitingly cold conditions later re-affirmed that this neck of the woods is no place for the faint hearted.