Plymouth Albion / Rugby

Shepherd delighted to accept late invite to tour Canada with England Counties

Matt Shepherd and Herbie Stupple with their medals after Sunday's final

Matt Shepherd and Herbie Stupple with their medals after Sunday’s final

PLYMOUTH Albion back Matt Shepherd flies out to Canada today with the England Counties squad on a high after helping Cornwall win back-to-back County Championship titles for the first time in their history.

Shepherd scored 20 of the Duchy’s points in their 35-13 win over Cheshire at Twickenham on Sunday.

He should have been celebrating the history-making moment back in his home town of St Austell, but on Friday received a late call asking if he wanted to tour Canada with England Counties.

They are playing three matches against BC Bears, Praire Wolf Pack and Ontario Blues between June 3 and June 11.

“I got called up on Friday,” said Shepherd, who was in the England Counties last season that toured Romania.

“You can’t turn it down – it’s representing your country. I know I’m lucky someone pulled out and I get to go, but I’m happy to be there and I will give it my all.

“I have never been to Canada before so I am looking forward to it.”

The England Counties team were meeting straight after the county finals on Sunday so Shepherd did not have much time to get ready, but, fortunately, he got some help from his girlfriend.

“Ellie, my girlfriend, packed my stuff for me and brought it up to Twickenham,” he admitted. “She brought it up in a nice leopard print bag, but it was brilliant she was able to do it.

“We have not spent that much time together because of the rugby season, but she’s happy for me to go. When I get back there’s going to be some time spent with Ellie and we’ll go on holiday and just chill out.”

Shepherd was over the moon at helping Cornwall win consecutive county titles. He was one of nine Plymouth Albion players in their 22-man squad at Twickenham.

“It was an amazing feeling,” he said. “To win back-to-back titles and create a bit of history and to get a try at the end was brilliant.”

On how it compared to winning it for the first time in 2015, Shepherd said: “It was amazing last year but this year we set some history.

“A lot of people expected us to get here and win. Last year I don’t think we had so much pressure on us. But every game this year we just clawed our way back into it and luckily we finished the final just as well as we started it.”

Shepherd had managed two tries last year and he managed to get over the whitewash again in the final minute of Sunday’s final.

“I got Billy (Searle) the first try and managed to make a few breaks but did not really penetrate enough myself to score,“ said Shepherd. “So I was happy Nelly (Neilson Webber) threw a ball over to me and then it was just a foot race and I managed to just get there.”

Shepherd missed out on really celebrating properly with his team-mates because of his England Counties call but he hopes to have his own celebration with them when he returns from Canada.

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