- A sideways look at the England Counties tour with our man Tony Simpson
- RFU.com exclusive in-camp news and gossip
Photo: Russell Ashworth
RFU.com is with the England Counties team on their three-match tour of Canada and our man Tony Simpson will be keeping you up to date with the news, challenges and escapades of the flagship side of the English County game.
"I'm hopeless with names. And faces, well..." Not an unfamiliar plea, especially when you've just spent all night at a dinner party referring to two of the other guests as Dick and Maisy when it should have been Mick and Daisy.
Consider yourself fortunate, then, that you are not currently wrestling with the challenge of trying to match up the names and faces of the 34-strong England Counties party which has just met ahead of a three-match tour to Canada.
Unlike the England senior team, which left for Oz at the same time as the Counties were flying out to Newfoundland, there is no celebrity content to get you a start. No images that can be found in Hello and the newspapers on a daily basis to assist in the recognition process.
And to make matters worse, this squad is the most cosmopolitan bunch ever drawn together by the Counties selectors, with players from 21 different clubs represented. For the players, even their County affiliations do not offer much respite. With 12 different counties contributing to the mix, only the lads from Lancashire (4), Cheshire (3) and Northumberland (3) can look around for enough faces to form a clique.
The internet, of course, provides of few thoughts to conjure with. Call up "Tips for remembering names" and you’ll get 145,000 pages of assistance, which leads us to conclude that it must be a common problem.
Most advice centres on concentrating from the off; looking at the person and repeating his name as quickly as possible on being introduced – ignore the canapé and the glass of wine being thrust at you by an attentive host at all costs!
And building up a mental picture which either relates to the sound of the name or the facial image which you have instantly stored as a caricature because you’ve been studying the person so intently.
Jimmy Roddam is just back from his stag party...
All good stuff, but I have the edge on my travelling companions. They have filled in forms which offer clues. Tour captain Matt Long, for example, is the senior citizen, so I can look for the scar tissue, while Jimmy Roddam is just back from his stag night in Edinburgh, so the nearly-shut eyes are a giveaway.
At 6ft 8in, Harry Spencer from Saracens, should be easy to spot as the tallest man in the group, but then Lancashire’s Luke McGowan and Lee Collins from Cornwall are both 6ft 6in, so a quick footwear check is needed to make that piece of info valid.
And if we’re talking avoirdupois, Mick Flynn, at 19st 6lbs should be any easy spot, but as he’ll tell you in a flash, 'Muscle weighs heavy mate', so don’t look for a pork butcher.
Tim Kessell from Devon is the youngster in the group at 20, so he should be easy to pick out, except there are a handful of fresh-faced folk about and some came of age a while back.
And so it goes on. By the end of the trip, we’ll all know each other well enough for gaffs to be eradicated, but for a little while yet the 'getting to know you' process unfolds. And what’s the betting that having got a handle on any other them, the computer will crash and erase all data that has not been properly stored.
Perhaps there’s something on page 144,999 that provides the easy answer!