- County Championship Shield kicks off this Saturday
- Buckinghamshire and Dorset & Wilts in action
The County Championship Shield kicks off this weekend with Buckinghamshire, Dorset & Wilts and Oxfordshire all in action on Saturday.
Buckinghamshire face East Midlands away in the opener at Huntingdon RFC, kick off 3pm, and they will be looking to better last season’s result of one win, one loss and one draw.
This year the coaching team is headed up by Alan Lane and Paul Gaster who have previously coached age group representative rugby for the county. Buckinghamshire will be drawing on players from a wide spread of clubs including Amersham & Chiltern, Buckingham, High Wycombe, Aylesbury and Chinnor, with Chinnor’s Sam Blewitt captaining the side.
Lane, who also coaches at Buckingham RFC, said: "We have had four training sessions so far and they have been going well. With both myself and Paul being new to the seniors’ county set-up we have certainly been impressed with what we have seen.
"Last season the quality of rugby was good and we were impressed. We were unlucky not to win the last game against Leicestershire, drawing 27-27, and this year we are confident we can build on that.
"We have a three-year plan with the ambition of getting to Twickenham and winning the championship and the players have bought into that. We look at what Dorset & Wilts have achieved. Like us they are a small county but they have won the last two County Championship Shield titles and we believe we can do that too."
Buckinghamshire head into Saturday’s match against East Midlands with a 34-26 victory over them from last season, but Lane says history counts for nothing in this tournament.
He added: "As ever with this tournament you don’t know what your opponents have been doing but from what I know about East Midlands they’ll certainly have some good players to choose from and with the game being away it will be tough, but we feel we have improved and we are confident."
Reigning County Championship Shield champions Dorset & Wilts open their campaign with an away fixture against South West rivals Oxfordshire at Banbury RFC, kick off 2.30pm, on Saturday.
As winners of the Shield for the past two seasons, the Twin Counties new Head Coach Don Parsons has big shoes to fill. Parsons, however, is no stranger to the county set-up. As a former player, captain and forwards coach the RFU Rugby Development Officer lives and breathes county rugby and he can’t wait to get cracking with the tournament.
"Certainly I feel the pressure is on me as I take over the Head Coach role form Simon Culley who did a fantastic job leading Dorset & Wilts to two successive Shield finals," said Parsons. "But at the same time having played for my county, captained them and coached the forwards previously I feel this is a natural progression for me and I’m really excited."
Parsons is joined on the coaching panel by fellow RFU colleague Neil Loader who will take care of the backs and both coaches, despite their new tenure, have big ambitions once again for the county.
Parsons added: "We are definitely in this to win it. We want to go to Twickenham again and win the final. We are after three Shield crowns. Saying that, we are certainly not arrogant about our chances. This is a new squad and we have to forget about our past glories and start from scratch again.
"We know that Oxfordshire will have an organised pack and that they have some lively backs too, and if they have got some of the Oxford Brooks players involved then they will come in on the back of a great season and will probably add a lot.
"For us, we expect to be calling on players from the likes of Bournemouth, Chippenham, Dorchester and Salisbury, among others, for this campaign, and we will look to play some attacking rugby. That is the philosophy the players have bought into. It will be exciting to watch and we certainly have the desire to win."
Berkshire will kick off their County Championship campaign on May 5 against Oxfordshire at home.