- Head coach Bob Hood is preparing England Counties U20 for first ever game
- Newly formed side playing against Scotland JWC side in Leeds this evening
Bob Hood’s mental agility and his reputation as one of the best organised coaches in the business will be challenged over the next few days as he seeks to direct the efforts of the newly-formed England Counties Under 20 and the Yorkshire Senior County side, who play on successive days this weekend.
Luckily he will not have far to travel given that the Counties youngsters will be preparing for their inaugural match against Scotland Under 20 Junior World Championship squad at West Park Leeds tonight.
Their headquarters at Bramhope, just a short trip round the Leeds ring-road from his Yarnbury RFC base, where Yorkshire side will be training on Thursday night ahead of their opening Bill Beaumont Cup game against Cheshire at Sheffield on Saturday (3pm).
Hood’s initial coaching focus will be on the Counties Under 20, where players and coaches alike start with a blank canvas as that squad is coming together for the first time. The situation is one that Hood relishes, even though his mobile is in meltdown mode already.
"Our first session is a working programme in which we focus on getting the players to develop their own input into how we think we can win. It’s very much a player-centred workshop in which we try to make the players feel part of the process. We provide a template that the players can work within and they then put some flesh on the bones. Luckily we have some time for them to get involved in the process on this occasion.
"Part of the workshop activities will involve ice-breaking sessions and team-building events where players will get to know each other. It’s probably the longest time I’ve had with a group, so I’m pretty confident on that score.
"We have to get them to gel as quickly as possible and to understand the processes we want to put down. They’ve had some independent preparatory work to do before they arrived in Leeds, so I’m confident that we’ve done as much as we can to lay the foundations."
Neil Back to present caps to squad
Former England flanker and Leeds Carnegie coach Neil Back will present the players with their shirts on Friday en route to the ground as the final act in the build-up.
"It’s always exciting at this stage," Hood added. "The management team, the medics, the coaches have all put a lot of effort into making sure this is a very professional effort.
"We’ve seen them play against England Under 20 at Newbury and we’d like to think that we will give them a very good game. They are together preparing for the World Cup and they’ll have had a lot more time together, but we’ll be ready for the challenge.”
In between, of course, Yorkshire are bound to have selection issues to address, as well as having their first session on Thursday. Fortunately he has seasoned professionals in fellow coaches John Lawn and Mike Aspinall to handle that before he switches camps on Saturday and sets a course for Twickenham.
England Counties Under 20 squad
Sam Arnott (Southend, South West & Gloucestershire), Joe Atkinson (Loughborough Un/Petersfield, London & SE & Hampshire), Josh Beaumont (Fylde, North & Lancashire), Elliott Brierley (Macclesfield, North & Cheshire), Tom Channon (Newton Abbot, South West & Devon), Ben West (Newbury, South West & Berkshire), Tom Harrison (UWE Hartpury, South West & Gloucestershire), Reuben Haile (Cinderford, South West & Gloucestershire), Peter Homan (Middlesbrough, North & Yorkshire), Carl Kirwan (Middlesbrough, North & Yorkshire), Miles Normandale (University of Wales Institute Cardiff, Gloucestershire), Joe Pass (Derby, Midlands & Notts, Lincs & Derby), Aaron Penberthy (Redruth, South West & Cornwall), Caldon Pike (Loughborough Students, South West & Berkshire), Matt Shields (Tynedale, North & Northumberland), Ben Sowery (Wharfedale, North & Yorkshire), Ben Sparks (Stourbridge, South West & Gloucestershire) capt, Chris Surman (Loughborough University, South West & Gloucestershire), Pierre Tucker (Dings Crusaders, South West & Gloucestershire), Brett Turner (Lydney, South West & Gloucestershire), Liam Wilkinson (UWE Bristol, South West & Gloucestershire), Andrew Murray (Nuneaton, Midlands & Warwickshire)