County squad assemble to plan 2017 campaign

Yesterday evening, players, coaches and officials from the Cornwall RFU assembled at St. Austell Brewery Visitors Centre to plot a chart that will hopefully bring Cornwall a third successive Bill Beaumont Cup, reports Bill Hooper.

With a new group there were some new faces and inevitably some familiar faces from previous seasons who will not be participating this season.

Tristan Lark has replaced James Earp as strength and conditioning coach this season whilst a replacement backs coach is set to be formally announced very shortly, possibly later today.

Cornwall Chairman of Selectors Terry Carter said. “Selecting an enlarged squad for the team building event has been challenging with a number of new guys coming onto our radar this season. We feel we have a good balance of players with experience and determination to represent Cornwall. We have players representing a number of clubs some who have come through our development program alongside those who have progressed from our under 20s.”

On the player front it was good to see players such as Tommy Phillips, Shaun Buzza, Jack Oulton, Joel Matavesi and Alex Ducker whom have had an outstanding season for Redruth in the fold alongside seasoned campaigner Chris Fuca.


Photo: Joel Matavesi (Redruth)

Whilst from Camborne, exciting centre Jack Simmons, last season’s Cornwall Under 20 skipper, Jon Drew, and Richie Kevern amongst the Town contingent.

Photo Jon Drew (Camborne)

Prop Digby Parsons and fly-half Fraser Honey represented Launceston with former All Blacks, Ben Hilton, Jake Murphy, Robbie Dugard, Richard Friend ready for another campaign.

In addition Tom Cowan-Dickie, Matt Shepherd and Robin Wedlake, Plymouth Albion stars from last season’s campaign will once again feature for Cornwall this season.

For Cornwall coach Graham Dawe it was a chance to touch base with his new squad and get to know the players ahead of working with them. “Tonight is important in the scheme of things, said Dawe. “Some of the players here tonight I haven’t seen play and don’t know too much about but obviously come highly recommended by our selectors, we always look to uncover a nugget or two and see how far they can go. One such player could be Brixham player Dom Connor a utility back row forward who was educated at Liskeard.


Photo: Graham Dawe

Dawe isn’t too concerned about the new format of the competition. “We can’t control those matters, so we must concentrate on what we can influence, our performance and our results. The next few weeks is going to be about moulding a team from a new squad, we’ve lost a few players from last season but I am keen to see what the new lads coming in have to offer and see how much they want the shirt.

The added attraction for Cornish fans this season is a Championship clash against old foes Devon to which Dawe gave a wry smile. “We aren’t going to get ahead of ourselves, it’ll be a great occasion for the fans but I am not going to get wrapped in the hype that will surround that game, it’s another game, another hurdle to overcome on the road to where we want to be.”


Photo: Dom Connor (Brixham)

Former Cornwall skipper, and no doubt a contender for the role again this season, Ben Hilton always gets a buzz when the county squad come together. “It’s good that we have this get-together, it’s something I wanted the county to do when I first became skipper and eventually we got there and now it’s the norm. This shows that we mean business and that we take the competition seriously. The players come into the set-up and are won over by just how much this means to us all.


Photo: Ben Hilton (Barnstaple)

Hilton has no doubts that Cornwall will there or thereabouts again this season. “Two is not enough, we have to push the boundries we have to push forward the ambition. We want a third win on the trot, we want to put Cornwall on the map and fly the flag proud and bold, and say to people we are here, we are who we are do not forget Cornwall as a rugby hotbed.

“It is difficult sometimes for people to realise that there is rugby beyond Exeter and that there is a lot of talent west of the Tamar and if the Cornwall rugby team can be a vehicle for young talent to progress, like Billy Searle now at Bristol, then all well and good.

“I have had so much from my county career including playing for England Counties which has been a huge honour last season we saw Tom Cowan-Dickie, Matt Shepherd and Craig Williams all involved either during the spring games or the summer tour, so I hope other Cornwall players can taste some of that this season.

Jake Murphy is another who is looking forward to the new campaign. “Another campaign, it doesn’t seem five minutes ago that we were celebrating our win at Twickenham. It’s a new challenge with some new players coming in so we have to see how we gel as team going forward. We know the other counties are out to topple us and it’s going to be tough with our first two games on the road. I have no doubts that Graham and the coaching squad will make sure we are focused to meet the challenges ahead.

“Graham has the knack of unearthing new talent each season, see where Billy Searle is now, Christian Judge now in the Championship with Bedford so playing for Cornwall will open doors for players.

Tom Cowan –Dickie is relishing getting stuck in for Cornwall again this season. “Looking forward to it off the back of last season’s win, hopefully we can pull it off again this season. I was fortunate enough last season to play with Cornwall and also England Counties, that was a great thrill for me last year and I hope for it again this season.


All photos Simon Bryant Iktis photo


Video by Kevin Bishop from last Sunday’s Cornwall Under 20s win against Devon

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