- Tough selection process for key game
- More changes in search for top combination
England Counties take their evolving selection process into the final game of their three match tour to Spain by making another batch of changes for the game against Spain in Valladolid today (Saturday, June 11, 6pm kick off local time) as they go in search of a clean sweep of victories.
The starting line-up for the Test shows nine changes to the one which faced Madrid in the opening game and eight adjustments to the team which beat Castilla Leon heavily in mid-week.
With only four players from the previous outing in Dublin in March, 15 who have never worn an England Counties jersey before and representatives of 22 different clubs and 12 different counties, establishing the optimum Test combination has been a major challenge, even using the two regional matches as trials.
"Selection was extremely tough, with a lot of people putting their hands up for inclusion. I’m very disappointed for the guys who missed out. We have a number of very disappointed players at the moment, including some who are sat on the bench, but that is what I would expect from people wanting to put on an England shirt.” said Manager Mike Old: “I’m very happy with the selection and the balance of the team. I think we’ve got a lot of mobility, plus some physicality.
“We’re aware that Spain will try to impose themselves on us early, but I think we have the ability to impose ourselves first. We have a very strong spine of players. I would expect leaders like Ollie Thomas and Gareth Collins in the backs, and Craig Voisey, Steve Pape and Rob Baldwin in the pack to come to the fore and take us forward.
“We’ve seen how hard Spanish teams come out of the blocks and there’s no doubt that they see themselves as a physical side. That makes it important for us to establish ourselves very early.”
One person who is in the team, Cornish lock forward Steve Pape, captures why it is so important.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” says the big man from Rosslyn Park and Somerset: “This is the highlight of my career. To play a full international team in a beautiful location like this – it’s the best rugby has to offer. That said, getting picked is only the first part of the process.
“Now we come to the hard bit of winning and I’m looking forward to that challenge and to expressing myself. To some extent pulling on the shirt is the easy bit – the difficult part is winning in the shirt and playing to the best of your ability.
“In years to come we want to be able to look at that shirt and remember a victory. And when we meet up as friends in 10 years time or whenever, we want to be able to talk about the day we turned over Spain. Looking at the shirt in years to come and thinking ‘we should have won’ will be a regret.
“I think we’re well prepared and ready. We’ve had an excellent couple of weeks together. We hit the ground running in our first session in driving rain in London and we’ve just finished our preparations in warm sunshine in Spain.
“The lads have bonded very quickly and there are some great individuals involved in a group where everyone is singing from the same song-sheet. Now we’re all itching for kick-off time tomorrow.”
England Counties side to face Spain
(Saturday, June 11, 6pm kick-off local time)
Fergus Mulchrone (Cheshire); Gareth Collins (Leicester Lions & Warwickshire) capt, Peter Hodgkinson (Ealing Trailfinders & Cheshire), Stephen Hamilton (Rotherham & Kent), Cameron Mitchell (Plymouth Albion & North Midlands); Ollie Thomas (Moseley & North Midlands), Charlie Mulchrone (Macclesfield & Cheshire); Gavin Woods (Caldy & Cheshire), Tommy Taylor (Sale Jets/Macclesfield), Craig Voisey (Moseley & North Midlands), Steve Pape (Rosslyn Park & Somerset), Ben Hilton (Launceston & Cornwall), Jack Preece (Birmingham Solihull & Gloucestershire), Aaron Myers (Westoe & Durham), Rob Baldwin (Wharfedale & Yorkshire) capt
Matt Hall (Blaydon & Northumberland), Rob Schillaci (Hertford & Hertfordshire), Richard Boyle (Tynedale & Northumberland), Tom Stradwick (Henley Hawks & Kent), Jimmy Williams (Birmingham and Solihull & Gloucestershire), Tom Hughes (Preston Grasshoppers & Lancashire), Ollie Brennand (Fylde & Lancashire), Martin Kent (Macclesfield & Cheshire)
*The match is being streamed live on www.emisionesdeportivas.com