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Lancashire fly-half and Bill Beaumont Cup winner Chris Johnson will captain the England Counties against Belgium A at Kituro Rugby Club, Brussels tomorrow evening (KO 7pm Belgium time / 6pm BST).
There are 11 players in the starting line up making their England Counties debut but the Fylde play-maker will be supported by experienced forwards Darren Jacques (Cornwall), Chris Wearmouth (Durham) and Tom Stradwick (Kent).
The squad arrived in Brussels on Saturday afternoon and tomorrow’s game provides the opportunity to try out patterns and combinations ahead of the Test against Belgium in Tubize on Sunday (KO 3pm BST).
Head Coach, Jan Bonney said: “We are very happy with what we have seen in training and squad buy-in has been exceptional. The players are now itching to get into the first game and are looking forward to building on the work which they have put in over the last couple of days. After watching recent Belgium performances on DVD we are expecting two tough and very physical challenges this week.
“Chris Johnson was a natural choice for the captaincy. He has put in some authoritative performances for Lancashire, especially during the Bill Beaumont final at Twickenham and the way he has approached the last few days has highlighted him as a strong leader within this squad. We know he will perform well in this role and is supported by a number of other experienced players including Matt Hall, the tour captain who starts this match on the bench.”
England Counties v Belgium A
15. Sean Taylor (Preston & Lancashire)
14. Nevaro Codlin (Cinderford & Gloucestershire)
13. Rhys Owen (Loughborough Students & North Midlands)
12. Nielson Webber (Launceston & Cornwall)
11. Drew Cheshire (Luctonians & North Midlands)
10. Chris Johnson* (Fylde & Lancashire) [CAPTAIN]
9. Chris Hallam (Doncaster & Yorkshire)
1. Darren Jacques* (Redruth & Cornwall)
2. Brett McNamee (Old Albanian & Hertfordshire)
3. Mike Hill (Birmingham Bees & North Midlands)
4. Chris Wearmouth* (Blaydon & Durham)
5. Royce Cadman (Doncaster & Yorkshire)
6. Tom Stradwick* (Blackheath & Kent)
7. Harry Broadbent (Caldy & Cheshire)
8. Steve Hipwell (Cambridge & Eastern Counties)
16. Matt Hall* (Blaydon & Northumberland)
18. Mark George* (Stourbridge & Gloucestershire)
19. Ben Hilton* (Launceston & Cornwall)
20. James Lindfield (Unattached & Kent)
21. Matt Heeks* (Rosslyn Park & Eastern Counties)
22. Heath Stevens (Plymouth & East Midlands)
23. Chris Harris (Tynedale & Northumberland)
*Capped by the England Counties