Rugby

Friend joins Albion players in Devon’s squad for County Championship opener

DEVONPORT Services’ former Tavistock forward Mark Friend and Plymouth Albion’s John and Frank Kelly are among the new faces included in Devon’s side for their opening County Championship match against Gloucestershire at Cinderford on Saturday (3pm).

Albion fly-half Dan Mugford has also made himself available for the Green and Whites for the first time since 2010.

Former Plymouth player Wayne Sprangle will captain the team in Gloucestershire in the absence of Nathan Hannay, who is playing for Honiton on Sunday in the RFU Senior Vase final at Twickenham.

Ivybridge, as in previous years, are well represented in the squad with Charlie Briant, Billy Pinkus, Ben Watts, Matt Finn, Jamie Tripcony, Lewis Paterson and Ben King all included for the first game.

Devon will be looking to build on last season when they got a long-awaited win in Cornwall and picked up bonus points against Gloucestershire and Kent to avoid relegation.

“After last season’s high of beating Cornwall down at Camborne it has made more people and clubs buy into Devon,” said head coach Dan Parkes.

“A few Albion lads have made themselves available this year, which helps lift the level up a bit further.

“We are really happy with the squad we have going to Gloucestershire.”

This will be Devon’s third season back in the top flight of county rugby and Parkes hopes they can keep improving.

“We want to win at least two out of our three games and we should be looking to try and get to Twickenham,” he said.

“Looking at our squad on paper, I’m very optimistic, and I think we can open a few eyes this year.

“We have also done very well with the fixtures this year as after Gloucestershire we have two matches at home.”

However, Parkes knows Gloucestershire will be tough to overcome at Cinderford. They have beaten Devon in the last two meetings.

“They have a lot of good clubs to choose from, like Cinderford, but Devon is also a massive rugby county and I have no doubt we can compete and put up a good battle on Saturday,” said Parkes.

Devon: 15 Charlie Briant (Ivybridge), 14 Billy Pinkus (Ivybridge), 13 Rhys Palmer (Okehampton), 12 Mitch Pinkus (Brixham), 11 Frank Kelly (Plymouth Albion), 10 Tom Putt (Unattached), 9 Ben Watts (Ivybridge), 1 Matt Dowrick (Newton Abbot), 2 Ashlee Crouch (Plymouth Albion), 3 Matt Finn (Ivybridge), 4 Jamie Tripcony (Ivybridge), 5 John Kelly (Plymouth Albion), 6 Mark Friend (Devonport Services), 7 Wayne Sprangle (capt, Bridgwater), 8 Caleb Sampson (Barnstaple). Replacements: 16 Dean Avery (Unattached), 17 Oliver Schuster-Wood (Cullompton), 18 Charlie Tribble (Exmouth), 19 Ben King (Ivybridge), 20 Dan Mugford (Plymouth Albion), 21 Jacob Nash (Taunton), 22 Lewis Paterson (Ivyvbridge).

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