From Eastern Counties to Africa
June will see various England representative sides playing in Africa and for once there will a number of players with Eastern Counties connections amongst them.
England play five games in South Africa and as expected Norfolk’s Ben Youngs is in the tour party. More of a surprise was the inclusion of his elder brother Tom, who like Ben started his rugby at Holt RFC before moving on to North Walsham and eventually Leicester Tigers. Both are very proud of their roots and are frequently seen on the touchline at Holt when they have a spare Saturday and at the club’s Mini Festivals.
Also in the squad is Alex Goode who has been in the Saxons squad for a couple of years and may soon get his chance to prove himself in the senior team. I remember watching Alex play in Cambridge’s minis against the Colchester side I coached, and then moving through the age groups until he played for the First XV before being signed by Saracens.
Also in South Africa will be England U20s competing in the IRB Junior World Championship. Scrum-half Ben Spencer, who spent last season playing at Cambridge, is the only player with local connections in the squad, with Colchester’s Alex Day overlooked despite helping England win the U20s Six Nations Championship this year.
The third England team touring the African continent next month is England Counties made up of players from clubs at Level 3 and below. They willl play two games in Uganda and one in Kenya and three players, all with links to Cambridge, are in the party.
- Utility back Toby Berridge left Cambridge earlier this year to play for Doncaster but returned to captain Eastern Counties in the County Championship games in May.
- Stefan Leibenburg came from South Africa to play for Bury St Edmunds RFC and a couple of seasons later he was playing for Cambridge. He has now moved on to Old Albanians and Bedford but he still lives in the Eastern Counties area.
- Tom Wheatcroft spent a couple of years at Cambridge, but lilke Berridge he left this year and now turns out for Ealing
Finally there will be a couple of non-playing tourists from Eastern Counties in the shape of me and my old friend Brian White, Chairman of Clacton RFC. We are travelling as part of a supporters tour with the England Counties squad before going to Nigeria to help with the development of the game there.
If you catch any of the teams playing on TV or read about them in that sports pages, look out for these names and if you are from the Eastern Counties, take some pride in the fact that we may have helped them in some small way on the path to senior representative honours.