- Lions skipper lands Counties XV job
- Experience key to captaincy choice
Leicester Lions captain Gareth Collins will be testing his leadership skills at a higher level this week having been chosen to skipper the England Counties XV in their game against Ireland's Ulster Bank Club International Team at Old Belvedere RFC on Friday (March 18).
The 27-year-old Leicester school-teacher has been the Lions captain for two years and also has previous England Counties experience which has been an important element in his selection says Counties Manager Michael Old.
"We wanted someone who had been involved with the Counties XV and was familiar with the ethos of the team and how we do things," said Old.
"Gareth has been a good tourist on previous trips to Korea & Japan and Canada and he also has the valuable experience of leading his club side for a couple of years.
"He follows in the footsteps of an outstanding leader from the Midlands in Matt Long, who did a terrific job in Canada last year, and I'm sure he'll maintain those high standards."
It only took a millisecond to say yes - Collins
Collins' initial reaction to the invitation to lead the team was one of complete shock, although there was no hesitation in accepting the job.
He said: "It only took a millisecond to say yes – it's a big honour and not something you turn down. With more time to think about it, it's a bit nerve-wracking, but I'm also very excited about it and looking forward to doing the job.
"My only previous experience of doing the captaincy job came when I was an 18-year-old at Lawrence Sheriff School in Rugby and over the last two seasons leading Leicester Lions.
"I'll try to approach things in the same way that I've done the job with the Lions and I hope that will stand me in good stead. I think that my experience with England Counties more than anything will play a part, especially in trying to help what is a very young set of backs.
"The challenge is all the more interesting because Tom Jarvis is the only person in the squad that I've played with before. That makes it a bit more difficult, but it’s up to me to find out what these guys are like early on and try to do what’s right for the team.
"Part of my surprise came from the fact that a lot of the players come from the top end of National One, which is a division above where I play, but as always, I've never had any expectation of having a place in a Counties team and it’s always a thrill to be in that company.
Collins and experienced choice of skipper
And Collins has given an indication as to what can the Counties players can expect in the confines of the dressing room.
"I wouldn't describe myself as a screamer, although I have my moments. I'm more about seeing from the back how things are shaping and suggesting where I think we should go. We have a few old heads up front who can motivate the pack without me having to do it, but if needs be, I’ll bang on the walls."
With tours to Korea & Japan and Canada under his belt, Collins will not lack ammunition when it comes to motivating his men.
"The last game in Canada for me was the pinnacle of my involvement with the Counties and that has helped to bring me to this position," he added.
"Beating Ireland in Dublin is our only objective at this point, but Counties tours are unbelievable experiences and I want to get across to the players that if there is something in the pipeline this summer, we all have an opportunity to put ourselves forward by playing well and winning."
England Counties squad
Dave Allen* (Blackheath), Sam Beaumont (Fylde), Josh Brown (London Scottish), Alex Clarke (London Scottish), Matt Hall* (Blaydon), James Kellard* (Barking), Aaron Liffchak (Barking), Dan Lloyd-Jones (Barking), Alex MacKenzie (Barking), James Ngan (Barking), Steve Pape* (Rosslyn Park), Tom Standfield (London Scottish)
Gareth Collins* (Leicester Lions), Peter Hodgkinson (EalingTrailfinders), Tom Jarvis* (Stourbridge), Stefan Liebenberg (Old Albanians), Dan Mugford (Cambridge), Ben Spencer (Cambridge), James Stephenson (Blackheath), David Vincent (Barking), Mike Waywell (Fylde), Tom Wheatcroft (Cambridge)
*denotes previous England Counties cap