Cornwall and Devon ready to kick-off their county campaigns

tamar9FORMER Plymouth Albion captain Kyle Marriott will make his Cornwall debut on Saturday when they open their County Championship campaign against Gloucestershire at Cinderford.

Redruth number eight Marriott, a former Devon player, will skipper the Duchy as they bid to reach Twickenham for a third successive season.

However, if they are to book their place at rugby’s HQ, Graham Dawe’s side are going to have to do it the hard way. Their opening two games are both away from home, with a long trip to Kent on the agenda for the second weekend of the campaign.

Cornwall’s only home match this season is against Hertfordshire at Redruth on May 23.

As well as Marriott, who has described being handed the role of captain as an ‘awesome honour’, Cornwall also included fellow former Plymouth players Steve Johns, Rupert Freestone, Jamie Salter and Max Venables in their squad for Saturday’s match.

Dawe knows it will be difficult for Cornwall this year, especially as Gloucestershire and Hertfordshire are able to select players from a higher level and both counties will be out for revenge after narrow defeats last season.

“It certainly won’t be a walk in the park at Cinderford,” said Dawe. “They (Gloucestershire) played really well last year at Camborne but Cornwall managed to get the victory.  Gloucestershire have not erased one bit of that defeat from their memories and they will be gunning for us this weekend.”

Cornwall may have reached the last two finals, where they have been beaten by Lancashire, but they have not won the County Championship since 1999.

Devon have won it three times since then and appeared in six finals, but they have not won a game since 2010 when they were relegated to the second tier of county rugby.

However, there is optimism in the Devon camp that they can not only win a match this season but maybe win promotion back to the top division.

Devon open their Division Two campaign away against Somerset at Taunton on Saturday (2.30pm) before entertaining North Midlands at Brixham (May 16) and Surrey at Okehampton (May 23).

There were encouraging signs for Devon in the recent Tamar Cup match against Cornwall, despite losing 38-13.

However, Devon will be missing influential former Albion forward Dan Williams on Saturday. He scored their only try against Cornwall, but is unavailable this weekend, as is Teignmouth flanker Rob Parsons and Brixham winger Matt Crosscombe.

Taunton’s Olly Massy-Birch comes in at full-back, with Brixham’s former Torpoint player Tom Goodman switching to wing.

Ivybridge’s Lewis Paterson, who played for Cornwall last year, starts at centre, with his club team-mate Dom Loomes coming into the second-row.

Former Albion prop Mark Manton also returns to the starting line-up for Devon.

Devon: Olly Massy-Birch (Taunton), Dean Squire (Brixham), Tom McLean (Brixham), Lewis Paterson (Ivybridge), Tom Goodman (Brixham), Joe Simmonds (Teignmouth), Jordan Petherbridge (Barnstaple), Russell Morris (Brixham), Dean Avery (Newton Abbot), Mark Manton (Taunton), Matt Gohl (Barnstaple), Dom Loomes (Ivybridge), Ben Turner (Taunton), Winston James (Barnstaple), Sam Thomas (Brixham). Reps: Keir Murphy (Tavistock), Matt Templton (Newton Abbot), Jake Rouse (Exmouth), George Savage (Exmouth), Chey Bryce (Brixham), Nick Halse, A N Other.

Cornwall: Billy Searle (Launceston), Steve Johns (Birmingham), Jake Murphy (Launceston), Nielson Webber (Redruth), Robin Wedlake (Redruth), Lewis Webb (Taunton), Matt Shepherd (Launceston), Rupert Freestone (Clifton), Richard Brown (Redruth), Craig Williams (Redruth), Damien Cook (Redruth), Ben Hilton (Launceston), Chris Fuca (Redruth), George Jones (Penryn), Kyle Marriott (Redruth capt). Reps: Jamie Salter, Christian Judge, Barry-John Chapman, Richard Friend (all Launceston), Tommy Phillips (Redruth), James Goldsworthy, Max Venables (Saltash)


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