- England Counties name squad for first tour to Africa
- Eleven counties and 15 clubs are represented on Uganda and Kenya trip
Photo: Getty Images
The England Counties have named their 26-man squad for next month’s three match tour to Uganda and Kenya.
Eleven counties and 15 clubs are represented within the squad which contains 12 debutants.
Rob Baldwin will captain the tour party, having led the side to a 34-16 victory over the Counties’ Irish counterparts, the Ulster Bank International Team, in March. Nine other players featured in the spring international, while Jim Wigglesworth steps up after impressing for the England Counties U20 earlier this month.
The England Counties squad is the representative flagship of the county and community game and since being founded in 2002 has visited North and South America, Europe and the Far East. Nine players have previous touring experience but the side will be treading new ground when they head to the African continent.
School outreach visits planned
The squad assembles on the June 1 and the 17-day tour incorporates the largest tour outreach programme ever undertaken. Working with the Tag Rugby Trust, the squad and management will carry out frequent coaching sessions and visits, aiming to raise the profile of rugby and leave a lasting legacy for the host unions.
The squad plays both Uganda and a combined East Africa side in Kampala before taking on the challenge of an East Africa Invitation XV in Nairobi.
Photo: Getty Images
Team Manager Michael Old said: “Selection has been particularly tough this year as the quality of players making themselves available for the County Championship continues to improve but we are very pleased with the final line up.
“Squad flexibility was a key consideration particularly in the specialist roles of prop, hooker and scrum half. In the event of injury or illness we will not be able to fly replacements out so it was important to have experience across positions: props Jared Saunders and David Dickinson have played at hooker while hooker Joe Bonner can switch to prop, and Jack Smales, a wing/full back, has played regularly at scrum half.
“I would like to offer my congratulations to the players on their selection and as with all ECXV tours it is hugely exciting to get a new group of players together to see what they can produce on the pitch; I would expect this squad to continue England Counties proud tour record and recent run of victories.
“The Ugandan and Kenyan Rugby Unions are looking forward to the prospect of having an England team on their soil. During a recent visit, we saw the pace, skill and commitment of the countries’ players and they will be highly motivated to perform against us.
“The squad will be faced with playing challenges very different to their club and county games and the unpredictability of the opposition is one of the most exciting elements of touring for both players and coaches.
"During the recce we also visited some of the schools and orphanages that we are going to be working with, together with the Tag Rugby Trust charity, and I am confident it will be a very rewarding and humbling experience for all involved as we make a positive impact on our East African hosts both on and off the pitch."
England Counties Squad
Rob Baldwin*^ (Wharfedale & Yorkshire)
Joe Bonner (Blackheath & Kent)
Richard Boyle^(Newcastle Falcons & Northumberland)
James Cleverly (Blackheath & Kent)
David Dickinson* (Tynedale & Northumberland)
Billy Johnson (Unattached & Hertfordshire)
James Lindfield (Westcombe Park & Kent)
Dave Marwick (Stockport & Cheshire)
Louis McGowan*^ (Sedgley Park & Lancashire)
Ben Pons (Moseley & North Mids)
Gareth Rawlings (Fylde & Lancashire)
Jared Saunders (Saracens & Hertfordshire)
Craig Voisey^ (Moseley & North Mids)
Sam Wilkes* (Cinderford & Gloucestershire)
Chris Briers*^ (Fylde & Lancashire)
Will Burton (Luctonians & North Mids)
Phil Chesters* (Ealing & Devon)
Steve Hamilton^ (Unattached & Yorkshire)
Peter Hodgkinson*^ (Ealing & Cheshire)
Toby Howley-Berridge (Unattached & Eastern Counties)
Stefan Liebenberg* (Bedford & Hertfordshire)
Harry Peck*^ (Tynedale & Northumberland)
Jack Smales^ (Nevers & Northumberland)
Rory Teague (Cinderford & Gloucestershire)
Tom Wheatcroft* (Ealing & Warwickshire)
Jim Wigglesworth (Hull & Yorkshire)
* Represented England Counties in Spring Internationals
^ Represented England Counties on previous Tour
Players on standby
Rob Schillachi^ (Hertford & Hertfordshire); Jamie Salter (Launceton & Cornwall); Chris Wearmouth*(Blaydon & Durham); Gavin Jones (Blaydon & Yorkshire); Philip Woodhead* (Wharfedale & Yorkshire); Tyson Lewis (Plymouth & Devon)
Game 1: v Uganda in Kampala – Tuesday June 5
Game 2: v East Africa in Kampala – Saturday June 9
Game 3: v East Africa Invitation XV in Nairobi – Saturday June 16