Courtesy of Peter Elliott, Lancashire RFU Press Officer
County selectors have named the side to face Cornwall in this Sunday’s Bill Beaumont Cup County Championship Final.
A mixture of youth and experience run throughout the squad, which has been a feature of this year’s campaign so far. After a successful tour to Georgia with England Counties Under 20s, Jon Matthews returns to the front row, having made his senior county debut in the opening day win at Hartlepool against Durham. Joining him from that tour is winger Ben Rath, who is in line to make his own senior county debut on the biggest stage in English rugby. Rath was an ever-present in the Lancashire Under 20 squad which reached the semi-finals of this season’s Under 20 County Championship. Liverpudlian Matthews meanwhile, represented Yorkshire Under 20s against Lancashire at Broughton Park in February.
Head Coach Mark Nelson discussed the team selection: “Matthews impressed in the first game up at Durham, and we’ve discussed it long and hard. It’s tough on Mark Rylance, but we had to make a decision, and on balance this was the right one. With Ben Rath we have got a massive threat of pace, as he is very unpredictable on the wing, which is what I’m looking for out wide. Andy Riley has done very well and will feature. He has scored a couple of good tries and as the game progresses he will get involved,” he said.
Further changes from the side which played Cheshire last week are the inclusion of Chris Briers at outside centre, Steve Collins at scrum half and Paul Arnold in the second row. Nelson discussed their inclusion: “Chris Briers didn’t start last week because of a knock, but he is fine this week. He brings that experience in the backs. At scrum half, we need a bit of an old head in Steve Collins, who fits that bill. I felt we needed some experience in there. James Smith did well, and Tom Webb has come on and made an impact. We thought long and hard about it.”
“We are going to have a look at Gareth Gore to come on and make an impact. It will be a very very physical encounter, so we have gone for Paul Arnold to start in the second row.
“This is going to be a big challenge, certainly with the atmosphere that is going to be generated by a big travelling support. They are a very physical, forward oriented side, it’s going to be a full-blooded affair.”
Cornwall are playing in their first County Championship final since 1999, while Lancashire are looking to regain the title they lost to Hertfordshire last year, after a three year winning streak.
15 Sean Taylor (Preston Grasshoppers) 14 Nick Royle (Vale of Lune) 13 Chris Briers (Fylde) 12 Jack Ward (Preston Grasshoppers) 11 Ben Rath (Fylde) 10 Chris Johnson (Fylde) 9 Steve Collins (Sedgley Park); 1 Dan Birchall (Fylde) 2 Jon Matthews (Otley) 3 Simon Griffiths (Fylde) 4 Paul Arnold (Fylde) 5 Louis McGowan (Sedgley Park) (Captain) 6 Jon Nugent (Stade Dijon) 7 Steve McGinnis (Fylde) 8 Dominic Moon (Preston Grasshoppers)
Replacements – 16 Pete Altham (Fylde) 17 Gareth Gore (Preston Grasshoppers) 18 Phil Mills (Preston Grasshoppers) 19 Evan Stewart (Fylde) 20 Philip Baines (Preston Grasshoppers) 21 Tom Webb (Fylde) 22 Andrew Riley (Sedgley Park)