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Tour blog – England Counties Corner IV

08 June 2010

  • Outreach programme a huge success
  • Birthday treat for Counties Manager Danny Hodgson

Tony Simpson keeps us up-to-date with exclusive coverage of the Counties tour to Canada. In his latest instalment we discover how the boys got on when they visited Oakville Crusaders Club, precisely why Danny Hodgson had a memorable birthday and the identidy of the Counties boots cleaner is revealed.

Oakville Crusaders group photo

Photo: RFU Archive

When England Counties were last in Canada two years ago, the role of handling the 'outreach' programme at two schools in the community fell to that luckless quartet, 'The Miss-outs' aka the lads who had won neither a place in the team nor on the bench for the game closest to the community commitment.

Last year in Korea the 'outreach' effort – visiting schools – achieved a more positive spin and with the local youngsters hanging on every word and undertaking each drill with enormous energy, the feedback from team leader Kyle Dench was of an entirely enjoyable and rewarding experience.

So much so, in fact, that at the Oakville Crusaders Club in Toronto, where the Counties will meet Ontario Blues in the second match of their tour, the entire Counties team appeared to roll up their sleeves and help the hordes of youngsters – boys and girls – who turned up for the session.

The Crusaders is the biggest club in North America and they turned out en-masse for a few tips from the tourists, around 160 kids – and eager parents – gathering on a warm, sunny night to produce a real jamboree atmosphere.

In terms of coaching numbers, this must have ranked among the biggest contingent ever to lend their support to any local group and there was no doubt from the reaction of the ‘students’ that they genuinely appreciated the gesture.

Special delivery for the boss

It probably says something about a friendship that a man might elect to deliver a birthday card to his mate by hand rather than stick it in the post.

How much it says when the hand delivery process involves a drive from near the Scottish border to Heathrow and a flight to Toronto is another matter.

Danny Hodgson celebrated his 67th birthday this week and there was understandably a look of amazement on his face when his farming and rugby pal of many years, Ian Forsyth, tapped him on the shoulder in the bar at the Delta Hotel in Toronto where the team were staying.

“I'm away to Majorca with my partner Sheila on Saturday and decided to toss a coin to see whether I should squeeze in a surprise trip to see Danny.

“The coin toss confirmed that I should make the effort and here I am to wish the old fella a Happy Birthday in person,” said Ian before tales of derring-do from the past started to enrich the celebrations.

Simple pleasures for Michael Old

The shoeshine boy

Photo: RFU Archive

The post of Assistant Manager to the England Counties XV will be decided soon as Danny Hodgson steps down as Manager and Michael Old moves up to the top job.

The role is without doubt a very busy and challenging one which requires not only a deep love of the game, but also oodles of man managements skills, a disciplined, thoroughly-organised brain and a willingness to deploy the common touch from time to time.

An international banker by profession, Michael stays in touch with the menial reality of life by cleaning all the boots of the players before every game and although this will not appear in any contractual arrangements, applicants for the job would be advised to read between the lines of the small print very carefully.

As the picture illustrates, this really is a labour of love, so maybe the new man will be spared on the basis that it now becomes a manager's perk.

Stay up to date with how our Counties side is doing - visit our England Counties news section for all the latest.