Nothing else quite stirs the emotions of a Cornishman than to see the black and gold shirts with the Cornish bezants upon the backs of fifteen brave Cornishmen about to do battle on the rugby field. It’s “us” against “them” and inevitably the “them” come from across Tamar from that funny land called England!
Speak to any Cornish player who has played for Cornwall (50, 30 or 10 years ago) and they will all say them same thing. The huge pride and honour to say “I played for Cornwall!”
That continuing “magic” endures with the current crop of players who come May will once again done that famous shirt and “play for Cornwall”
On Monday evening Cornwall RFU had a players meeting at Kingsley Village, Fraddon the first step on this season’s county championship campaign.
It was a chance for officials, players and coaches to sit down and plan for what everyone hopes will be a return by the black and golds to Twickenham at the end of May.
Overseeing Cornwall’s preparations once again will be Dave “Benji” Thomas with Paul Trevaskis (Penryn) and Steve Perry (Barnstaple) also back in coaching roles.
“Tonight is the start of the preparations”, said Thomas. “Last year we had a similar get-together and it seemed to work well, so we have tried to replicate it again this season. We brought the players in laid down the ground rules, the style we wanted to play and everybody brought into it. Most of the players we invited are here the coaches, and county officials. We want to outline just what we expect from them and to build on what we felt was quite a successful year last year and we really want to take that forward”.
Present also at the evening were Cornish Pirates Head Coach Ian Davies, skipper Gavin Cattle and few Cornish Pirates players amongst the players assembled.
“To have input from people like Ian Davis, Gavin Cattle and Alan Paver is tremendously important these are professional people who are involved at a very high level in the game, their input is going to be invaluable. Last season when we went up to play Hertfordshire we were faced with players who had been playing for Saracens and I am sure when Hertfordshire come down to Camborne in May there will be a fair few Saracens players involved again!
Cattle, was due to deliver a speech to the players as part of the evening. Thomas said. “Hopefully we will be getting help from the Pirates this year, obviously much will depend on how they progress in the Championship play-offs, but Ian Davies, Gavin Cattle and Alan Paver all hope to have an input in our preparations.
Thomas also added. “We hope to have players from the Cornish Pirates, Plymouth Albion and also dual registered players from the Exeter Chiefs”. That was apparent with both Rhodri McAtee and Sam Hocking from Albion present along with Aaron Penberthy, Peter Joyce, Tom Duncan and Tom Kessell from the Pirates.
“We’ve got a large squad of some 35 plus players at the moment, which will have to be trimmed when we come to the Championship, but with games over such a short period we are likely to get injuries and players will get their chance, but they will have already “brought in” to the concept that we have for the campaign so that will make the transition much more seamless.
One man who knows what it means to play for Cornwall is current CRFU President Ken Plummer who played for Cornwall in the 1969 County Final against Lancashire at Redruth, and of course played for England on the wing.
“I am delighted to be President of Cornwall this season and I am very pleased to see such a good turnout of players here tonight, when the County Championship comes round we are all looking forward to it and I believe we are capable of having a good crack at it. It’s all about the players and wearing that Cornish shirt, the passion run through you and running out at Camborne or Redruth or even up country, it’s us against the English and it really is something very special”.
And Ken Plummer has a very simple request for all Cornwall supporters. “Please turn up! That’s what we need, back in my day we would have 10, 15,000 supporters at the ground and up country they would follow us in droves, that’s what we need, get behind the boys, they are all local boys all playing for Cornish clubs. If we play well then the crowds will turn up that I am sure of”.
It was always said that a crowd at Redruth was always worth five points to the Cornish side such was their support and singing, it inspired the Cornish players to greater deeds.
From a current players point of view you only have to talk to them to see how enthusiastic they are about playing for Cornwall for Cornish All Blacks’ skipper Tom Rawlings “It’s massive honour to be honest, the organisation last year and again this year is so much better now, but it’s all about pulling on that jersey and representing Cornwall, I get quite emotional running out with the boys knowing I am going to play for Cornwall, you go that extra mile because you believe in what you are representing”.
Redruth prop forward Darren Jacques has represented the Barbarians and England Counties but for him there is nothing like playing for Cornwall. “The boys are all keen to play for Cornwall we want to be part of the history of the County side. It would be nice to get back to Twickenham, I played there with Cornwall in 2008 when we played Northumberland in the Shield final (Cornwall lost 25-11), but it would be great to get back and play in the main final and emulate the wins of 91 & 99 at Twickenham that dream drives me on every year.
Last season’s Cornwall skipper Ben Hilton was equally delighted that following his call some 18 months ago for Cornwall to start preparing earlier that progress continues in the right vein but he also has no illusion that it’s going to be a very tough campaign. “Having two away games first makes it a very tough challenge but I think that with set-up we have got now then we are well-equipped to meet it head on. We have got the bulk of last season’s squad back again so they know what we are about. We want to build early using the Tamar Cup match just prior to the Championship to help cement our game plan and put us in good stead. We took a leaf out of Sir Clive Woodward’s coaching manual the little one percents, each little one added up to make the difference if we can continue with that this season then we can improve further. I am looking forward to the challenge and hopefully I can win the County Championship before I get too old!”