- England Counties captain Harris Casson ready for Scotland test
- "As soon as I got the news I was overwhelmed" – Hartpury College student
England Counties Under 20 captain Harris Casson has not done the job often enough to have evolved a leadership style, but he is confident that top-class preparation and a high-quality squad of players will lighten the burden when he leads his team out against Scotland Under 20 at St Andrew’s University tomorrow (Friday, May 4, 6.30pm).
"As soon as I got the news I was overwhelmed," said the Hartpury College student, who is named after a family friend and not a Scottish island and also happily answers to Harry. "I think it’s a great honour to the playing in and captaining any national or divisional set-up and even moreso, I’m looking forward to captaining the group of lads that have been chosen for this game.
“There are some fantastic players in the team and I’ll have a lot of weight taken off my shoulders as captain because there are so many experienced people around me.
“I won’t have much to say in terms of motivation before the game because I think the team will be switched on already, so what I have to say will come in the last two minutes before we run out. I haven’t done the job often enough to have developed a philosophy – I’m just thankful to be offered the captaincy of such a high-calibre group of players.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to grow as a person and as a player and I’d love to be captain of a squad that beat Scotland tomorrow. That would be very special to me.
“The preparations have gone very smoothly. We’ve built up to the game very strategically and we’ve been coached very well and not been overwhelmed with too much information.
“We have players with ability and the coaches have given us the tools, so it’s up to us to use them. Everything has been done to put us in the right mind set for the game.”
One additional bonus for Casson in his leadership role is the fact that he will be playing at No 8, a position he relishes despite spending the last couple of seasons in the second-row.
“I want to be in a position where I can get around the pitch and be as big a nuisance as possible, so I’m very happy to be able to play at No.8 once more, especially against Scotland.” he said.
Head Coach Bob Hood endorsed his captain’s thoughts. “The people and the facilities where we've been training at Lasswade RFC have been absolutely superb.” he said. “Nothing has been too much trouble and they’ve done a very professional job for us.
“We’ve been very pleased with the progress of the side considering that we’ve only had about six hours together and the progress made from yesterday morning to today has been very encouraging.
“What has been a lot better this year is the selection protocol, which is a lot better. There is no uncertainty about the quality of the squad – we’ve got a very talented group of players who are big and athletic with a lot of pace and ability.
“We also work on a very player-centred approach with lots of feedback flowing all the time and the boys have bought into the process big style. It was very pleasing at the end of the session today to see how far we had come.
“Harris Casson is a very knowledgeable player and a very good motivator. He was so proud to accept the captaincy. He’s a natural leader and I think he’s absolutely bubbling with enthusiasm and can’t wait for tomorrow.
“A Jim Wigglesworth on the wing is going to be a major threat. These two are certainly going to be names to look out for in the future, but they are surrounded by some very good players whose names it will also be interesting to track.
“It doesn’t seem to long ago that I took young Dave Strettle on the first Counties tour to Chile, and as he has proved, the sky’s the limit for these lads.”
England Counties Under 20
Luke Daniels (Esher, Surrey & London & SE); Jim Wigglesworth (Hull, Notts, Lincs & Derby & Midlands), Heath Stevens (Coventry, East Midlands & Midlands), Huw Morgan (Chinnor, East Midlands & Midlands), De La Rey Veenendal (Cambridge, East Midlands & Midlands); James Stokes (Leicester Lions, Notts, Lincs & Derby & Midlands), Ross Kevan (Old Northamptons, East Midlands & Midlands); Adam Tamanis (Doncaster Phoenix, Yorkshire & North), Josh Woods (Sedgley Park, Lancashire & North), Sam Steventon (Oxford Harlequins, Oxfordshire & South West), Ben West (Cinderford, Gloucestershire & South West), Piers Phillips (Darlington Mowden Park, Yorkshire & North), Ben Morris (Blaydon, Yorkshire & North), Ben Vernon (Tarleton, Lancashire & North), Harris Casson (Hartpury College, Gloucestershire & South West) capt.
Replacements: Mike Flook (Kingswood, Somerset & South West), Nico Woodward (Cinderdford, Gloucestershire & South West), George Richardson (Syston, Leicestershire & Midlands), Sam Heygate (Loughborough Students, East Midlands & Midlands), Dan Lee (Barnstaple, Devon & South West), Joe Rowntree (Harrogate, Yorkshire & North), Jack Hayes (Hartpury College, Gloucestershire & South West), Joe Martin (Hull, Yorkshire & North).