A NUMBER of Plymouth and Ivybridge-based players have been included in Devon’s squad for Monday night’s Tamar Cup match against Cornwall at Tiverton (7.30pm).
The annual contest is used by both counties as preparation for the County Championship, which this year starts on May 6.
For the first time in seven years, Devon and Cornwall are both in the top division of the championship and will meet on May 13 at Ivybridge.
That has added extra spice to Monday’s Tamar Cup match.
Ivybridge players Ben Watts, Tom Scoles, Mitch Pinkus, Matt Finn, Charlie Briant and Lewis Paterson are named in Devon’s 29-man squad.
Also included are Brixham’s Plymouth-based students Malcolm Onsando and Shek Sheriff, and scrum-half Luke Kenny and forward Martin Browne, who both now play for Newton Abbot but previously played for Plymouth Combination clubs.
Former Plymouth Albion hooker Davy McGregor, now at Brixham, adds experience to the Devon side.
Ex-Albion boss Dan Parkes is Devon’s head coach. He will be assisted by Ivybridge’s Paterson and Exmouth’s Jon Hill.
All Cornwall’s coaching staff have Plymouth Albion links, with Graham Dawe their head coach and Marek Churcher, Rhodri McAtee and Tristan Lark their other coaches.
Albion, though, have not make any of their players available for Monday’s Tamar Cup game and it remains to be seen if they will allow any of their contracted players to play in the County Championship.
If they don’t then Cornwall’s chances of claiming a third straight title would be hit as last year the likes of Matt Shepherd, Herbie Stupple, Rupert Freestone and Robin Wedlake, who have already signed new deals with Albion, were key players for them as they made history at Twickenham by winning the cup for a second year running.
Shepherd and Devon’s Dan Williams and Dan Pullinger have all earned England Counties honours in the past year, but unless they feature in the County Championship they will not be eligible to tour with the representative side this summer.
Devon do hope to add former Championship players Bevon Armitage and Nathan Hannay to their squad for their group games in May, but they are not available for Monday’s match.
Cornwall’s squad for the Tamar Cup match includes former Albion players Jake Murphy, Robbie Dugard and Bryn Jenkins, who all now play for Barnstaple.
Duchy coach Dawe admits places are up for grabs in the County Championship.
In previous years players like Billy Searle, Christian Judge, Shepherd and Wedlake have used the Tamar Cup to force their way into Cornwall’s County Championship line-up and that has helped their careers to progress.
“Places for the championship games are up for grabs and players who perform well in the Tamar Cup, training and for their clubs, are in the mix for selection,” said Dawe, who helped Devon to six County Championships finals between 2000 and 2008.
“This game is crucial to allow us to observe players in the county shirt and how they perform under that additional pressure.
“We have away games against Surrey and Devon before we face Hertfordshire at home this season. There will certainly be pressure on everyone involved in this year’s squad.”
Devon player-coach Paterson said: “There are some more players to come into the Devon squad. It’s just some are unavailable for Monday night.
“Cornwall haven’t got their Albion players but they have some big Redruth players in there.
“There’s an opportunity for some young Devon players on Monday.
“That’s the good thing with the Tamar Cup is that you are able to bring these young players in and see how they gel with the good quality senior players we have in the County Championship squad.
“It’s good for us to look at them, but we are also out there to get a good result and bring the Tamar Cup back to Devon. There’s no hiding behind it, we want to win this game, but still getting a lot out of it.
“This season we are getting a really good response from players. That gives the coaching staff a load of confidence. It’s good that the best players are saying they are available and want to play for Devon.”
Monday night’s match is set to be refereed by former Premiership prop Nick Wood.
Wood made a record 278 appearances for Gloucester and earned England Saxons honours before retiring in 2016.
Devon (from): Gavin Price (Newton Abbot), Ben Watts (Ivybridge), Tom Scoles (Ivybridge), Mitch Pinkus (Ivybridge), Luke Kenny (Newton Abbot), Matt Finn (Ivybridge), Andy Hamilton (Tiverton), Charlie Gibbings (Exmouth), Shek Sheriff (Brixham), Mike Richards (Exmouth), Robin Luscombe (Kingsbridge), Joe Lovell (Brixham), Sam Thomas (Brixham), Finn Marks (Exeter College), Charlie Briant (Ivybridge), Jack Bond (Newton Abbot), Ollie Rice (Exmouth), Lewis Paterson (Ivybridge), Harvey Ridgeway (Exmouth), Tom Whelan (Sidmouth), James Mattin (Exmouth), Russ Morris (Brixham), Davy McGregor (Brixham), Issac Dalton (Exmouth), Malcolm Onsando (Brixham), Jack Fahy (Exmouth), Martin Browne (Newton Abbot), James Harris (Exmouth), Dan Swain (Exmouth).
Cornwall: 15) Reece Brownfield (Camborne), 14 Dean Bonds (Redruth), 13 Jack Simmons (Camborne), 12 Duncan Tout (Rossendale), 11 Alex Ducker (Redruth), 10 Mitch Vague (Penryn), 9 Jack Oulton (Redruth), 1 Tommy Phillips (Redruth), 2 Richard Brown (Redruth), 3 Andruis Zacharius (Camborne), 4 Brad Howe (Redruth), 5 Bryn Jenkins (Barnstaple), 6 George Jones (Penryn), 7 Mark Grubb (Redruth), 8 BJ Chapman (Redruth). Reps: Dom Connor (Brixham), Sam Bartle (Camborne), Robbie Dugard (Barnstaple), Jon Drew (Camborne), Chris Fuca (Redruth), Grant Randlesome (Penryn), Everard Reid (Pirates Amateurs), Jake Murphy (Barnstaple), Fraser Honey (Launceston), Richard Kevern (Camborne), Tom Notman (Redruth), Roby Robinson (St Austell), Richard Friend (Okehampton).