- Tony Simpson gives us a round-up of the Counties tour to Canada
- Three wins out of three for Danny Hodgson's men in North America
Photo: RFU Archive
England Counties ticked all the boxes on their three-match tour to Canada, not only finishing their trip unbeaten and extending a flawless record in North America to six matches, but also providing another group of players with the chance to wear an England shirt and to develop their talents in a challenging environment.
With the squad having an average age of only 22, the development content on this trip was arguably the greatest it has ever been and without doubt a handful of young players grew visibly in terms of self-assurance – in some cases almost on an hourly basis.
The tour also exposed young and old alike to a severe learning curve – 21 different clubs and a dozen counties were represented in the mix and every game was unique in terms of the challenge it presented.
In the opening game at St John’s, Newfoundland for example, the weather was bitingly cold, the wind blew mercilessly and the rain came horizontally.
The opposition all came full-frontal in the way of 'Newfies' and it was a credit to the resolve of the team and the organisation of coaches Dave Baldwin and Jan Bonney that the Counties kept their line intact to win 20-6.
Hugely rewarding outreach session
This switch to Toronto brought another major change, with the temperature soaring by 20 degrees centigrade and training at Oakville Crusaders a comparative joy for the tourists.
Comfortably the most satisfying aspect of that part of the trip, other than the rather edgy 32-26 victory, was the hugely rewarding outreach session, when all 26 players were involved in coaching 170 boys and girls from the club.
Decamping again the morning after the game to Vancouver via another lengthy, bumpy flight was one of the less attractive features of the itinerary, but this West Coast city is a real gem and the host club Capilano RFC were generous, helpful hosts.
The game against British Columbia Bears, forecast to be the toughest of the trip, was the one where the Counties really found their best form and a 46-7 victory wrapped up the trip and Manager Danny Hodgson’s association with the team in fine style.
England Counties squad list
Forwards: Dan Baines (Macclesfield & Lancashire), Luke Collins (Redruth & Cornwall), Phil Eggleshaw (Nottingham & Durham), Mark Evans (Moseley & North Midlands), Nick Flynn (Sedgley Park & Lancashire), Will Fraser (Saracens & Hertfordshire), Matt Hall (Blaydon & Northumberland), Gavin Woods (Caldy & Cheshire), Matt Long (Birmingham Solihull & Gloucestershire), Louis McGowan (Coventry & Lancashire), Jonny Roddam (Fylde & Lancashire), Harry Spencer (Bedford & Devon), Craig Voisey (Rotherham & North Midlands), Mark Wilson (Blaydon & Northumberland).
Backs: Will Cliff (Sale & Cheshire), Gareth Collins (Leicester Lions & Warwickshire), Steve Hamilton (Blackheath & Kent), Paul Humphries (Blackheath & Kent), Charlie Ingall (Tynedale & Northumberland), Tom Jarvis (unattached & Gloucestershire), Tom Kessell (Plymouth & Devon), Cameron Mitchell (Birmingham Solihull & North Midlands), Fergus Mulchrone (Macclesfield & Cheshire), Henry Staff (Blackheath & Hertfordshire), James Tincknell (Wharfedale & Yorkshire), Ross Winney (Macclesfield & Cheshire).