Plymouth Albion / Rugby

Touring Canada capped a great season, says Albion star Shepherd

Matt Shepherd

PLYMOUTH Albion back Matt Shepherd said touring Canada with England Counties capped a great season for him.

Shepherd started two of England’s three matches as they returned unbeaten from North America.

The England representative side beat BC Bears 41-0, Prairie Wolf Pack 67-10 and Ontario Blues 73-0.

Shepherd was a late call-up to the touring squad and flew out to Canada straight after helping Cornwall claimed back-to-back County Championships wins for the first time in their history.

“It was brilliant,” he said. “I could not have asked for a better two weeks really, winning at Twickenham with Cornwall and then going to Canada and pulling on that England shirt.

“It topped off what was a good year,” added the utility back, who was Albion’s top scorer last term as they won 22 out of their 30 National One matches.

“Obviously, the opposition (in Canada) was not the best, but I think it was more down to our game-plan and what we actually did. We played really well.”

Shepherd was pleased to get the chance to start two matches, playing at full-back in the first against BC Bears and then starting a scrum-half against Ontario.

“I didn’t expect that having got a late call-up,” said the former St Austell star. “I was happy with that and happy with the performances I put in.

“The coaches said I did well, so I was happy with that.”

Shepherd had never been to Canada before and he enjoyed the experience.

“It is really picturesque,” he said. “It was good going through the Rockies and seeing Niagara Falls. The scenery was brilliant. The cities were also good and England gave us a lot of time off to have a look around as well as training.

“It was a good mixture of on and off field stuff.”

Matt Shepherd CornwallShepherd is now having a well-earned week’s holiday before returning to Albion.

The Cornwall player was one of the first players to re-sign for the club.

“I’m now looking forward to the up-and-coming season and seeing what is going to happen,” said Shepherd, who so far is the only regular back starter from last season to have re-signed following the arrival of new owners and the shock departure of Graham Dawe.

“We all just have to forget about what has happened now and just focus on being a team,” said Shepherd.

“Obviously, we don’t know who is coming in player wise. It will be quite interesting to turn up for pre-season and see who is about.”

While Shepherd was away in Canada, Albion appointed Dan Parkes as their new head coach at Brickfields.

Shepherd said: “I heard of Dan and he’s played a good standard of rugby. I think he brings a lot of experience.

“I don’t know a lot about him but he seems a nice guy. I have spoken to him a few times just through messages. You just have to give everyone a fresh clean slate and just get on and see what we can do.”

Shepherd may not know Parkes that well but he is well acquainted with Albion’s new fitness coach, James Earp. He has been working with Earp in Cornwall.

He will also know Kieran Hallett, who has been appointed Albion’s new backs coach. Hallett, a former Albion player and captain, left the Cornish Pirates in the summer after four years to concentration on a coaching role with Exeter based in Cornwall.

However, he is set to join Albion as a player-coach. Albion certainly need some experience in their backs having lost Marc Koteczky, Tom Bedford and Jake Murphy. Plymouth also need to strengthen their fly-half options with Billy Searle and Elliot Bale having also left Brickfields.

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