- League commitments change county landscape
- Old order changes as balance of power shifts
Lancashire will field a team drawn almost exclusively from Preston Grasshoppers and Sedgley Park when they open their Bill Beaumont Cup County Championship campaign against Durham at Hartlepool Rovers tomorrow (May 4).
While the Red Rose ranks are ordinarily populated by a strong Fylde contingent, tomorrow only one player from Ansdell is involved, Lancashire Under 20 full back Curtis Strong, who is among the replacements.
Fylde have a game at relegation-threatened Macclesfield and players from both clubs are ruled out of county duty.
As a result, ‘Hoppers’ and Sedgley Park supply six players each to the Lancashire side, which should produce an interesting tussle given the fact that Durham will have a backbone of seven Blaydon players in their starting line-up.
At a time when most counties are struggling with the difficulties imposed by a protracted league programme, Durham have emerged relatively unscathed, although they are not immune from the competition for good players from the spate of sevens tournaments that abound at this time of the season.
“I think we’re stronger this year because every club has supported us, with Blaydon supplying the core of the team,” said coach Peter Taylor. “Representative teams with restricted preparation times need to get a core and that’s what we’ve tried to do, while still making sure that we get the best players.
“Getting a squad that is keen and committed is the key to success and we feel we have that. We deserved our promotion by beating some good teams and now we want to be competitive at the higher level and prove that we are where we ought to be.”
Yorkshire have spread their net far and wide for the game against Cheshire at Bradford & Bingley, with 11 different clubs represented in their line-up. Otley and Doncaster Knights are the main providers, with five players from each club involved.
Northumberland open their campaign in the second tier of the Bill Beaumont Cup with a trip to Towcestrians RFC and a match against East Midlands, who have stepped up a level after previously playing in the County Championship Shield.
As a result, they have included England Counties internationals Lewis Barker and Joe Burton in their squad for their first match, Coventry scrum half Barker and Loughborough Students flanker Burton returning to the fold after previously being ineligible.
Lancashire (v Durham): Sean Taylor (Preston Grasshoppers), Nick Royle (Vale of Lune), Philip Baines (Preston Grasshoppers), Jack Ward (Preston Grasshoppers), Andrew Riley (Sedgley Park), Steve Collins (Sedgley Park), Callum McShane (Sedgley Park), Sam Simpson (Eccles), John Matthews (Otley), Nick Flynn (Sedgley Park), Louis McGowan (Sedgley Park) capt, Gareth Gore (Preston Grasshoppers), Alastair Murray (Preston Grasshoppers), Billy Emerson (Sedgley Park), Dominic Moon (Preston Grasshoppers)
Replacements: Anthony Harvey (Waterloo), Nick King (Caldy), Philip Mills (Preston Grasshoppers), Mark Williams (Liverpool St. Helens), Sam Wallbank (Vale of Lune), James Smith (Caldy), Curtis Strong (Fylde)
Durham (v Lancashire at Hartlepool Rovers, Bill Beaumont Cup, May 4, 3pm): Gavin Painter (Blaydon) Tom Jeffrey (Blaydon), Nathan Holmes (Durham University), Chris Hyndman (Billingham), Jamie Sole (Blaydon); Andrew Baggett (Blaydon), Matthew Mellish (Westoe); James Hallam (Blaydon), Richy Thirkell (Horden), Josh Bayford (Durham University), Chris Wearmouth (Blaydon) capt, Dan Palmer (Horden), Jon Boatman (West Hartlepool), Rob Bell (Blaydon), Scott Powell (Westoe).
Replacements: Ralph Appleby (Darlington MP), Andrew Rollins (West Hartlepool), Peter Dent (Durham City), Callum Mackenzie (Darlington MP), Daniel Finney (Billingham), Joe Evans (Billingham), Peter Evans (Billingham)
Yorkshire (v Cheshire at Bradford & Bingley RFC, 3pm): Jim Wigglesworth (Hull); James Twomey (Otley), Jamie Broadley (Sheffield Tigers), Tan Tomasi (Beverley), Chris McTurk (Darlington Mowden Park); Greg Wood (Sandal), Chris Hallam (Doncaster Knights) capt, Jason Moss (Bradford & Bingley), Steve Maycock (Harrogate), Toby Williams (Otley), Gregor Hayter (Sheffield Tigers), Matt Stephens (Otley), Gavin Jones (Blaydon), Anthony Maka (Hull), Ben Morris (Blaydon)
Replacements: Stephen Depledge (Otley), Adam Tamanis (Doncaster Knights), Jack Bergmanas (Doncaster Knights), Latu Makaafi (Doncaster Knights), Andy Boyde (Doncaster Knights), Luke Cole (Otley), Gareth Lewis (Huddersfield)
Northumberland (v East Midlands at Towcestrians, May 4, 3pm): Chris Harris (Tynedale), Simon Barber (Blaydon), Harry Mountain (Tynedale), Tommy Banks (Blaydon), Peter Moralee (Tynedale), Grant Connon (Darlington MP), Harry Peck (Tynedale), Robbie Kalbrier (Blaydon), David Cherry (Tynedale), David Dickinson (Tynedale), Shaun English (Blaydon), Keith Laughlin (Blaydon), James Hamilton (Blaydon), Sam Reynolds (Tynedale), Jason Smithson (Blaydon) capt
Replacements: Alex Westgarth (Tynedale), Fran Entresengle (Team Newcastle/Huddersfield), Tom Schofield (TN/Darlington MP), Nick Cairns (Tynedale), Tom Grimes (TN/Preston GH), Nathan Bailey (Blaydon), Thomas Bramwell (Tynedale)
Cheshire Under 20s (v Berkshire Under 20s at Twickenham, May 4, 5pm):
Forwards: Mark Williams (Wilmslow), Nathan Rushton (Birkenhead Park), Tom Concu (Sandbach), Ryan Higginson (Wirral), Max Harvey (Wilmslow), Simon Currie (Stockport), Ben Jones (Wilmslow), Fraser Smale (Caldy), Tom Sanders (Caldy), Mike Finnemore (Macclesfield), Matty Dowler (Caldy), Josh Longson (Sandbach), James O'Rourke (Altrincham Kersal), David Jones (Caldy)
Backs: Callum Yates (Altrincham Kersal), George Drury (Macclesfield), Owain Phillips (Chester Uni), Oliver McCall (Wilmslow), Billy Woof (Birkenhead Park), Josh Woods (Altrincham Kersal), Matthew Van Sertima (Caldy), Matt Geiger (Manchester GS), Mike Barlow (Stockport), Mike Kaciubskyi (Stockport), Alexi Mouarkach (Caldy), Marcus Webber (Clifton), Louis Taylor (Altrincham Kersal)