- Protherough relishes Cornish test
- East Midlands face Eastern Counties in opener
Photo: RFU Archive
North Midlands coach Dan Protherough hopes that one of the most famous venues in County Championship rugby will bring the best out of his players when they return to the Bill Beaumont Cup First Division on Saturday May 10.
North Midlands face a trip to Redruth’s Recreation Ground and its famous Hellfire Corner for a meeting with Cornwall, who were beaten by Lancashire in last season’s final.
North Midlands are back in the County Championship’s top flight having won promotion last season but they were relegated two years ago when they also played in a tough South pool which included Cornwall, Hertfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Protherough, a former Moseley and Birmingham & Solihull man, has stepped up from assistant coach to replace Scott Bemand as North Midlands head coach, and is excited by the challenge that awaits his side.
“We’ve yo-yoed a bit over the last few years but we are back in the top division and we are coming in with the aim of winning the group, that has to be our first target,” Protherough said.
“But our first focus has to be on Cornwall and that will be a great experience for our guys. Cornwall are very passionate about county rugby, there will be a big crowd at Redruth and it will be a chance for us to play at a famous county venue.
“It can be an intimidating place to play but we hope that the boys will enjoy the atmosphere, rise to the occasion and put in a big performance.”
Cornwall also have a new head coach in Graham Dawe, the former England, Bath and Sale hooker who was previously director of rugby at Plymouth Albion.
Cornwall prepared for the County Championship by beating Devon 17-0 in the Tamar Cup last week but North Midlands have not had the benefit of a warm-up match.
Protherough has a new coaching team of Mark Evans, the Old Halesonians and former Moseley No.8, and Birmingham & Solihull’s utility back Rod Petty, who has been named among the replacements.
Stourbridge hooker Dale Garner, whose wife is due to give birth this weekend, and his club mate Steffan Shllingford, because of work commitments, are not available for the long trip to Redruth.
Birmingham & Solihull hooker Will Radburn will captain a North Midlands side that includes nine newcomers in the starting XV with three more on the bench.
Brothers Niall and Solomon Dacres are in the squad for the first time. Niall, the elder brother, plays in Stourbridge’s back row, and Solomon, who plays his club rugby for Bromsgrove, steps up to the North Midlands senior squad having played for the county’s Under 20 side earlier this season.
North Midlands travel to Old Albanians to face Hertfordshire on May 17 and host Gloucestershire at Bromsgrove in their only home match on May 24. The County Championship final will be played at Twickenham Stadium on June 1.
In the County Championship Bill Beaumont Cup Second Division, East Midlands begin their campaign against Eastern Counties at Wellingborough RFC on Saturday.
East Midlands stepped up from the County Championship Shield last season and beat Eastern Counties in their final pool match after they were beaten at home by Northumberland in their opener.
East Midlands have again continued their policy of attracting back players who progressed through their age group teams before opting to play their club rugby outside the county with Stourbridge scrum half Peter White and Coventry hooker Chris Locke added to this season’s squad.
Ampthill wing Johnny Morgan is another newcomer in a side that will again be captained by Coventry flanker Brett Daynes.
East Midlands warmed up for the County Championship with a 25-22 defeat against Army A in a curtain-raiser to the Mobbs Memorial Match at Northampton in March.
In the County Championship Shield Notts, Lincs & Derbyshire host Cumbria at Sleaford where they must win to stop Cumbria, last season’s beaten finalists, progressing to the semi-finals.
NLD travel to Burton to play Staffordshire in their other Pool Two match on May 17.
In Pool One of the Shield Leicestershire need to beat Buckinghamshire at Amersham & Chiltern on Saturday if they are to have any hope of progressing to the semi-finals after last week’s surprise home defeat against Essex.
Warwickshire, who beat Buckinghamshire 52-10 in their opener, host Essex at Broadstreet.