Lancs hit Twickers trail again

Red Rose head coach Mark Nelson
Red Rose head coach Mark Nelson
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Preston Grasshoppers have four players in the extended Lancashire squad which has been preparing for the defence of its county championship title.

The first of the Red Rose’s three Northern Group matches is tomorrow, when they travel to Chester to take on Cheshire.

Next Saturday, they are away again – against Durham at Blaydon – before their only home fixture on May 23, against Yorkshire at Fylde.

Hoppers forwards Pete Altham, Ally Murray and Phil Mills – who have all played for Lancashire in previous Bill Beaumont Cup campaigns – are joined by uncapped Lewis Allen, the fly-half or wing who top-scored for the Lightfoot Green club this season.

Also in the squad is Hartpury College centre Niall Crossley, who made a big impression when guesting for Hoppers in the Good Friday challenge game against Fylde.

Vale of Lune hooker Daniel Baines is also included.

Red Rose head coach Mark Nelson, who has recently stepped down from a similar role at Fylde, has included 16 of the National League One side’s players whom he knows so well.

They are Chris Johnson, who skippered Lancashire to the title last year, Ryan de la Harpe, brothers Gareth and Scott Rawlings, Dan Birchall, Tom Burtonwood, Chris Briers, Jordan Dorrington, Gareth Gore, Simon Griffiths, Tom Lavelle, Adam Lewis, Alex Loney, Warren Spragg, Evan Stewart and Fylde’s new head coach, Paul Arnold.

All bar Scott Rawlings and Dorrington have previously pulled on the red and white stripes. They have been joined at training by former Fylde players Steve McGinnis, Callum McShane, Ben Rath and Steve Collins.

Lancashire have dominated the competition in the last decade or so and will be aiming for their seventh title since 2006.

IThe Red Rose president this year is former first-class referee David Matthews and he says: “I have always been a fervent supporter of the County Championship, favouring some of the 12 systems used more than others but only once disagreeing about its status.

“I believed that the use of Twickenham for the final was a waste of time.

“But Rob Briers convinced me that if other finals of more junior competitions were staged there, then why shouldn’t the players eligible to play in the County Championship have the honour of treading the hallowed turf, particularly now that the final was linked up with other games the same day?”