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England Counties blood 13 debutants in opening tour game

03 June 2010

  • England Counties have 13 debutants in first game against The Rock
  • Squad drawn from 17 different clubs and 11 different counties

England Counties centre Henry Staff, who will make his debut on the tour to Canada on June 3

Photo: RFU Archive

England Counties will have 13 players making their debut when they open their three-match tour to Canada with a game against The Rock, the Newfoundland provincial team, at The Swilers RFC in St John's tomorrow (Friday, June 4).

The Counties squad is drawn from 11 different counties and 17 different clubs and is arguably the most diverse line-up ever to represent the Counties XV.

The senior player in the squad, prop Matt Long, leads the side, while at the other end of the age spectrum, Blackheath's Henry Staff, who only celebrated his 19th birthday on March 8, partners his club mate Steve Hamilton at centre.

Manager Danny Hodgson was keen to underline the selection policy which produced this opening combination by pointing out that the choice is the first part of a two-part process which seeks to deploy resources over games in St John's and Toronto to obtain maximum effectiveness.

"We have a very strong squad and I'm perfectly happy that any of the players not chosen for the first outing could step into the team and the standard would not suffer," says Hodgson.

"I have every belief in all the players and know that we have some real quality in all positions.

"The calibre of the players is very, very high right across the board without a single exception. We said at the outset that every player would play in one of the first two games and get a chance to prove himself. That's what is going to happen.

"But with that process in mind, we have to achieve a balance in the way we use our resources. A great deal of thought has gone into getting the right combinations for the two games and I'm sure the coaches have selected wisely.

"We have a squad with an average age of 22, which is great, because age was not a factor when they were watched and selected. There are some very talented youngsters in this group and there are also key figures with good experience to help to steer things in the right direction if the need arises.

"I know that The Rock team will be extremely passionate and very well prepared, so we are expecting a very thorough examination. As their coach Pat Parfrey said a couple of days ago, on paper we look to be strong favourites, but games are not won and lost on paper. We think we know what to expect and we're looking forward to the tussle."

England Counties Team to face The Rock
Player Club
15 Gareth Collins Leicester Lions & Warwickshire
14 Fergus Mulchrone Macclesfield & Cheshire
13 Henry Staff Blackheath & Hertfordshire
12 Steve Hamilton Blackheath & Kent
11 James Tincknell Wharfedale & Yorkshire
10 Ross Winney  Macclesfield & Cheshire
9 Tom Kessell Plymouth & Devon
1 Matt Long (C) Birmingham Solihull & Gloucestershire
2 Matt Hall     Blaydon & Northumberland
3 Craig Voisey Rotherham & North Midlands
4 Luke Collins Redruth & Cornwall
5 Harry Spencer Saracens/Bedford & Devon
6 Mark Wilson Blaydon & Northumberland
7 Will Fraser Saracens & Hertfordshire
8 Mark Evans Moseley & North Midlands
Player Club
16 Jonny Roddam Flyde & Lancashire
17 Gavin Woods Caldy & Cheshire
18 Nick Flynn  Sedgley Park & Lancashire
19 Lewis McGowan Coventry & Lancashire
20 Dan Baines Macclesfield & Cheshire
21 Will Cliff Sale & Cheshire
22 Kyle Dench Harrogate & Yorkshire
23 Tom Jarvis unattached & Gloucestershire