- New-look East Midlands prepare for County Championship
- Barker in squad for Mobbs curtain-raiser
East Midlands will begin their preparations for this season’s County Championship Bill Beaumont Cup second division campaign when they play the Army A at Goldington Road in Bedford on Wednesday, March 13 (5.30pm).
The match will be played as a curtain-raiser to the annual Mobbs Memorial Match between RFU Championship club Bedford Blues and the British Army at 7.45pm and will give a new-look East Midlands side valuable game time together before they play Northumberland on May 4.
East Midlands have moved up to the second tier of the County Championship this season from the County Championship Shield, whose regulations prevented them from selecting players from National League clubs.
“We got a bit fed up of producing players who did well for our Under 20 side but who then went away to play their senior county rugby elsewhere,” said Jeremy Tyrrell, East Midlands chairman of playing.
“Hopefully our aspirations will now match the aspirations of the players.”
East Midlands have named ten debutants in their squad to face Army A, eight of whom have played senior county rugby for them at some stage.
Coventry scrum half Lewis Barker, a current England Counties international, is also back in an East Midlands shirt as is his club-mate Brett Daynes, who will win his county cap for his tenth East Midlands appearance.
Back-row forward Daynes made his first nine appearances while he was with Northampton Old Scouts but his move to Coventry meant that he was ineligible for county rugby while East Midlands were in the County Championship Shield.
The Mobbs Memorial Match, which was first played in 1921, honours Edgar Mobbs, a true England rugby legend and a hero of World War I.
Some of the most illustrious names in the history of English rugby have played in the Mobbs Memorial Match in either the colours of the East Midlands or the Barbarians, who played each other every year until 2011.
Although the Barbarians announced that the 2011 fixture would be their last, the Mobbs Memorial Match lives on with the British Army facing teams Bedford Blues and Northampton Saints on alternate years.
Edgar Mobbs led the East Midlands, the Midlands, the South of England and the Barbarians, as well as Northampton for five seasons, something which was not matched until the mid-1990s.
His illustrious career included seven England caps, but he is as much remembered for what he did on the field of battle as for his rugby exploits.
Having been refused a commission upon the outbreak of World War I on grounds of age, Mobbs formed his own special corps and just over a month after war had been declared 400 men had volunteered to join him. The 264 who were passed fit became known as the Sportsman's Battalion and formed a large part of the 7th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment.
Mobbs himself was wounded three times in battle, and in the recuperation from the one injury played his final game of rugby in 1915. His return to his Battalion – by now as colonel – after his third injury coincided with the Battle of Passchendale, during which Mobbs became one of the 420,000 men to lose their lives.
He went down in folklore with the story that as he lay dying after trying to storm a German machine gun nest, Mobbs passed the map reference of the enemy to his runner to give to the Battalion Brigadier.
Mobbs' body was never found and there was no wife or child to mourn him. That did not stop a Mobbs Fund committee being formed, and the money they raised paid for a statue to honour him. Unveiled in front of thousands of Northamptonians in 1921, the statue now stands in the town's garden of rest.
East Midlands squad v Army A
Backs: Lewis Barker (Coventry), Peter White (Stourbridge), Ross Kevan (Cambridge), Scott Browne (Canterbury), Lawrence Rayner (Old Albanians), Heath Stevens (Coventry), Jack Green (Coventry), Adam Barnard (Shelford), Joe Marston (Leicester Lions), DeLaRey Veenendaal (Cambridge), Stephen Woodhead (Bedford Athletic), Tom Harris (Coventry)
Forwards: Tom Williams (Leicester Lions), Michael Cade (Old Albanians), Zac Osborne (Towcestrians), Jordan Brew (Old Northamptonians), Chris Elliott (Bedford Athletic), Tom Poole (Coventry), Matt Gibbs (Nuneaton), Rhys Hughes (Old Northamptonians), Brett Daynes (Coventry), Greg Mathers (Old Northamptonians), Matt Mills (Old Northamptonians), Sam Howes (Old Northamptonians)