Rugby

Plymouth lock Collier added to Cornwall’s squad for County Championship final

PLYMOUTH Albion lock Dan Collier could make his Cornwall debut in Sunday’s County Championship final against Lancashire at Twickenham (12noon).

Collier has been named on the bench for the Duchy as they look to secure a third successive title.

The highly-experienced forward has been living in Cornwall this season and has training with the Duchy squad while his eligibility was confirmed.

His Albion team-mates Robin Wedlake and Matt Shepherd will start the game at Twickenham against old rivals Lancashire, who they have met in four of the last five finals.

The pair are the only level three players to have started a game for Cornwall in this year’s County Championship, which has seen them beat Surrey 34-14, Devon 56-11 and Hertfordshire 45-28.

The bulk of the Duchy’s team this term has come from National Two South side Redruth, with players from Camborne, Albion, Barnstaple, Penryn and Wadebridge making up the rest of squad.

Ex-Albion players Jake Murphy and Sam Matavesi will start, while Seti Raumakita, like Collier, is named among the replacements.

Wedlake and Shepherd had been selected for the England Counties tour of Spain, along with Nile Dacres, who has been playing for North Midlands.

Shepherd did tour Canada with the representative side last season, but this will be Wedlake’s first call up. He is also eligible to play international rugby for Belgium.

The England Counties squad will leave on Monday and play Euskarians in San Sebastian on May 31, before playing a Spain XV on June 3.

There has been talk that the England Counties team and the County Championship could be scrapped to save the RFU money.

County rugby has helped the careers of many players, including recently Jamal Ford-Robinson, who has just been called up into the England squad this week, and Billy Searle, who played in the Premiership for Bristol this season after featuring for Cornwall the last two years.

The likes of Shepherd, Wedlake, Christian Judge and Rupert Freestone have also benefitted from playing for Cornwall, while current Exeter Chiefs players Dave Ewers, Ben Moon, Jack Yeandle and Joe Simmonds all featured for Devon as teenagers.

Cornwall coach Graham Dawe, who will be involved in his 12th County Championship final on Sunday – six for the Duchy and six for Devon – believes the competition still has an important place in the game.

“I can’t see county rugby in jeopardy,” said Dawe. “I can actually see it getting stronger.

“It is a massively important stepping stone for ambitious players.

“Even if it does not result in playing for England Counties, playing for your county should be something you cherish and be proud about.”

Cornwall team to face Lancashire: Matt Shepherd (Plymouth Albion), Lewis Vinnicombe (Redruth), Robin Wedlake (Plymouth Albion), Jake Murphy (capt, Barnstaple), Tom Notman (Redruth), Joe Elderkin (Redruth), Jack Oulton (Redruth), Tommy Phillips (Redruth), Richard Brown (Redruth), Craig Williams (Redruth), Tony Whittle (Camborne), Bryn Jenkins (Barnstaple), George Jones (Penryn), Sam Matavesi (Camborne), Grant Randlesome (Penryn). Reps: Matt Ballard (Wadebridge), Dan Collier (Plymouth Albion), BJ Chapman (Redruth), Andrius Zacharovas (Camborne), Chris Fuca (Redruth), Seti Raumakita (Plymouth Albion), David Mankee (Camborne).

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