FIVE Ivybridge players have been named in Devon’s squad for their opening Jason Leonard Under-20 County Championship match against Cornwall at St Austell on Sunday (1.30pm),
Will Lamont, Jay Toogood, Marcus Prout and Nathan Davies will start, while Owen Garner is named among the replacements.
Devonport Services’ Liam Jarvis and Reece Bartlett and Plymstock Albion Oaks’ Reegan Spencer are reserves for the game.
A number of Plymouth Combination clubs sent players to the open trials but competition was tough for places in the training squad, with more than 50 players from 26 different sides attending.
As well as Jarvis, Bartlett and Spencer, Services’ Harry Groves and Oaks’ Tom Tabb did make the county’s squad, but don’t feature this weekend.
“We had incredible numbers at the trials and not one player looked out of place, which is a credit to the depth of clubs in Devon,” said under-20 head coach Lewis Paterson. “The quantity and quality made it very tough to narrow down.”
Devon selected 35 players for their training squad, but only 22 can feature this weekend.
“It was really, really tough to get it down to 22,” added Paterson. “In the end what we had to look at was what type of game we are going to play on Sunday. Certain individuals have different attributes that will benefit the way we want to play this weekend.”
Paterson knows a trip to Cornwall will be tough but he says the squad and the coaching staff are really excited about getting their Division One campaign underway after winning promotion back to the top tier last year.
“It is really exciting,” said Paterson. “We want to get our teeth sunk into this championship.
“We want to establish ourselves at this level again and target some wins. From the success we had last year and the squad we have this, there is no reason why we can’t go far. But we just have to take it a game at a time. We are just focusing on this first game and trying to win it.”
He added: “Any Cornwall side you come up against, whether it is under-18, under-20 or seniors, are going to be well-drilled.
“The depth in Cornwall has really progressed, but we have seen the growth in Devon rugby from the seniors beating Cornwall in Camborne last year.
“We played an under-20 warm-up game with Cornwall last year and there was an abundance of positives from that. We were dominant in some areas and I feel now we have an even better, larger and more physical squad.
“I think it is going to be a cracking game on Sunday. We expect it to be very tough and very physical. But if the weather is good I expect to see a lot of skills on show from our boys. I think we have an incredibly talented side.”
Devon Under-20s to face Cornwall: 15 Oli Gibbon (Topsham), 14 Nick Headley (Exmouth), 13 Will Lamont (Ivybridge), 12 Sam Brown (capt, Taunton), 11 Brad Down (Hartpury College) 10 Harry Ottaway (Newton Abbot), 9 Jay Toogood (Ivybridge), 1 Callum Wood (Exmouth), 2 Martinas Dromantas (Barnstaple), 3 Marcus Prout (vice-capt, Ivybridge), 4 Dan Armstrong (Exmouth), 5 Ethan Pearce (Crediton), 6 Nathan Davies (Ivybridge), 7 Rudy Evans (Topsham), 8 Asipeli Vea (Sidmouth). Reps: 16 Owen Garner (Ivybridge), 17 Callum Davies (Bideford), 18 Toby Turner (Kingsbridge), 19 Jake Smith (Exeter Athletic), 20 Sam Fulthorpe (Exmouth), 21 Will Throgmorton (Newton Abbot), 22 Finn Marks (Withycombe). Reserves: Reece Bartlett (Devonport Services), Liam Jarvis (Devonport Services), Reegan Spencer (Plymstock Albion Oaks).
Saracens won all their four matches in January, including beating leaders North Tawton away, which earned them the Tribute Devon Team of the Month Award.
“We won four on the bounce now, but we have a difficult game against Exeter Athletic,” said Sarries coach Pete Lethbridge.
“We have got a few away as it was due to be a free weekend. It will be a test for us and we’ll see how far we have come. We know it is going to be difficult.”
In the Devon Merit Table, DHSOB are due to host unbeaten league leaders Salcombe at Stonehouse Creek, while in the Ellis Trophy, Plympton Victoria are due to play Saltash III, while Plymstock Albion Oaks II are due to host Liskeard-Looe II. Oaks have named high-profile new signings Joe Walker and Hayden Coles in their starting line-up for that match, with David Byng, returning from injury, on the bench.
Meanwhile, Oaks youngster Pete Keanie has been named in the South West Under-18 squad, along with Ivybridge’s Matt Burns and Plymouth College pupil Seb Tooke.