- Rob Baldwin leads England Counties from No.8 in Salamanca
- Coaches make 12 changes with Spain match places still in the balance
Photo: Getty Images
England Counties go into the second game of their three-match tour to Spain against the Castilla Leon Union in Salamanca on Wednesday with 12 changes to the starting line-up as the selectors fulfil their pledge to give every player a start in one of the first two matches.
The target for the Counties, the representative flagship of the County and Community game outside the Aviva Premiership, is to earn selection for the final game of the tour, the match against Spain in Valladolid on Saturday and despite a hefty 53-24 victory in the opening game in Madrid, there are still a number of places up for grabs.
Wharfedale captain Rob Baldwin leads the side after sitting out the opening game, while also appearing for the first time will be centre Cameron Mitchell, ruled out by injury in Madrid, Gavin Woods and Fergus Mulchrone.
"I’m really pleased and honoured to be asked to do the job," says the Yorkshire No 8. "I’ve captained my club for the last two years and I’ve also led the Yorkshire side, but this is my first time as captain of the Counties.
"I need to concentrate on my game first and hopefully lead from the front. I’m really looking forward to it."
Brothers Fergus and Charlie Mulchrone start
A new page in the annals of Counties rugby will be written by brothers Fergus and Charlie Mulchrone. The Cheshire pair will be the first brothers to wear a Counties shirt together since 2006 when Dave and Paul Knight were both involved in the game against Tunisia at Broad Street.
For Baldwin, the captaincy comes on the back of having to sit out the first game completely, as happens for four players in each match with 26 players on tour and 22 in a match squad.
"You have to take it on the chin and take the rest time that goes with it," he said. "Now I’m looking forward to getting going and putting in a balanced display, but not trying too hard. If you try to do too much it can all end in tears in this heat. I just want to go out and do my job.
"I think we need to come together more as a team and trust in each other, trust what your mates do, trust what other positions do, trust what we’ve done in training rather than trying too hard.
"There will be times for individual flair and when they occur, we want to see it being expressed, but the lads we are playing against will have been together a long time and, like Madrid, it will show.
"When you do into someone else’s back yard and you’re fighting for every scrap of ball, the opposition aren’t going to give it up easily. We need to put our bodies on the line and we need to do it for 80 minutes. One thing we need to learn from the Madrid game is that we can’t expect to win it by putting in a good performance in the first 20 minutes.
"The were scrapping for the full 80 minutes and still coming at us at the end, so we know what to expect."
One place in the squad has yet to be finalised. At this stage one of the back replacement slot has yet to be filled followed the repatriation of injured scrum-half Harry Peck to England. His replacement has yet to be finalised.
Fergus Mulchrone (Cheshire); Curtis Wilson (Leeds Carnegie & Yorkshire), Peter Hodgkinson (Bedford & Cheshire), Cameron Mitchell (Plymouth Albion & North Midlands), Ollie Brennand (Fylde & Lancashire); Aaron Penberthy (Redruth & Cornwall), Charlie Mulchrone (Macclesfield & Cheshire); Gavin Woods (Caldy & Cheshire), Matt Hall (Blaydon & Northumberland), Rob Schillaci (Hertford & Hertfordshire), Steve Pape (Rosslyn Park & Somerset), Richard Boyle (Tynedale & Northumberland), Ben Sparks (Stourbridge & Gloucestershire), Jack Preece (Birmingham Solihull & Gloucestershire), Rob Baldwin (Wharfedale & Yorkshire) capt
Replacements: Tommy Taylor (Sale Jets & Cheshire), Martin Kent (Macclesfield & Cheshire), Ben Hilton (Launceston & Cornwall), Aaron Myers (Westoe & Durham), Steve Hamilton (Rotherham & Kent), Gareth Collins (Leicester Lions & Warwickshire), A N Other.