- Lancashire ready for a much sterner test from Herts
- But coach Nelson thinks their spirit could be crucial
Lancashire coach Mark Nelson is confident that while his side are facing a much stiffer test in Sunday’s (May 27, kick-off 11am) repeat of last season’s final of the Bill Beaumont Cup against Hertfordshire at Twickenham, they have the collective team spirit to rise to the occasion and the challenge.
The continued injuries to captain Louis McGowan, the Sedgley Park lock, and to Fylde flanker Steve McGinnis mean that hooker Alex Loney will lead the side again after handling the job successfully in the Northern Pool decider against Cheshire.
Lancashire will have two England Counties Under 20s players in their 22-man squad with Tarleton back-row forward Ben Vernon and Fylde scrum-half Callum McShane both on duty. Another Lancashire and England Under 20s player, hooker Josh Woods, who was part of the Counties team that played against Scotland Under 20s recently in St Andrew’s, will also travel as part of the squad.
In the backs, Fylde wingman Ollie Brennand is recalled to the squad after missing the previous game against Cheshire because of Amsterdam Sevens commitments, while Preston Grasshoppers centre Matt Hughes is also brought in.
Lancashire are looking for their fourth consecutive victory in the Championship, in contrast to their opponents, who are looking carry off the trophy for the first time in their history.
Last season the Red Rose men got home 32-23 at Twickenham, but Lancashire Coach Mark Nelson has been saying since the start of the competition that Hertfordshire might well emerge as winners of the Southern Pool once again, with Old Albanian, the National League Two South champions, providing the core of the team and five players from Saracens strengthening the mix.
“I spoke with Hertfordshire Coach Paul Turner a couple of days ago and he is confident that his side is stronger than last season,” says Nelson. “They have a sprinkling of Sarries first-team squad players, including former Lancashire prop Parra Du Plessis and former England RL centre Joel Tompkinson, who has won four international caps and has played 125 times for Wigan Warriors.
“He’s clearly a player for the future having recently move to the RU game, but he already has lots of experience and is just one member of a team that is packed with quality players. I’m fully aware of the quality of the players Hertfordshire are fielding, that’s what we’re looking forward to as a team and I’m looking forward to seeing our team rising to the challenge.
“It’s very disappointing for Louis McGowan that he misses the game because of an injury which also takes him out of the England Counties and the same is true of Steve McGinnis, who has heroically played this season with a ruptured bicep, but this would be too much and instead he’s decided to have an operation to repair the damage.
“It just shows the commitment the players have to play for Lancashire and shows that this County side really has developed the kind of team spirit which comes from feeling that they are part of something special."
”In addition to Du Plessis, Hertfordshire also have another two England Counties players in their ranks, with young prop Rob Schillaci (Hertford) and scrum-half Stephan Liebenberg (Bedford) having played on a tour to Spain and against the Ulster Bank International XV respectively last year.
The County Championship Final precedes the England v Barbarians fixture which kicks off at 14.30.
Lancashire: Chris Briers (Fylde); Nick Royle (Fylde), Stephen Briers (Fylde), Richard Kenyon (Fylde), Warren Spragg (Petrarca Padova); Chris Johnson (Huddersfield), Ryan De la Harpe (Moseley); Dan Birchall (Sedgley Park), Alex Loney (Fylde) capt, Richard Morton (Preston Grasshoppers), Paul Arnold (Fylde), Gareth Rawlings (Fylde), Sam Beaumont (Fylde), Evan Stewart (Fylde), Dominic Moon (Preston Grasshoppers).
Replacements: Simon Griffiths (Fylde), Peter Altham (Fylde), Mark Rylance (Caldy), Ben Vernon (Tarleton), Oliver Brennand (Fylde), Matthew Riley (Sedgley Park), Callum McShane (Fylde).
Hertfordshire: Tom Newton (Tring); Ben Ransom (Bedford), Joel Tompkins (Saracens), Chris Lombaard (Old Albanian), Michael Allen (Hertford); James Shanahan (Old Albanian), Stefan Liebenberg (Bedford); Jared Saunders (Saracens), Brett MacNamee (Hertford), capt, Petrus Du Plessis (Saracens), Tom Jubb (Cambridge), Eoin Sheriff (Saracens), Oliver Cooper-Millar (Old Albanian), Rob Farenheim (Old Albanian), Billy Johson (Bedford)
Replacements: Stuart Bailey (Old Albanian), Robert Schillaci (Hertford), Marco Cecere (Old Albanian), Craig South (Hertford), Tom Mowbray (Chinnor), Tom Coleman (Bishop’s Stortford), Richard Gregg (Old Albanian).