THREE of last season’s title winning Birmingham & Solihull Bees squad have been selected to represent England Counties following strong turn-outs over recent weeks for their regional county sides.
Mark Woodrow and Matt Long, selected at fly-half and prop respectively, helped guide Gloucestershire to the Bill Beaumont County Championship Cup final after a brilliant campaign which saw them demolish Somerset, Devon and Cornwall before failing at the last hurdle, to Lancashire.
Jimmy Aston impressed for the North Midlands against Cumbria and Leicestershire and joins the Gloucestershire duo in Seoul as part of England’s two week tour to Korea and Japan.
England Counties team manager Danny Hodgson said he likes the look of the squad which has a good blend of youngsters and experience.
“I like the look of the front five, they will give us a solid base and Mark Woodrow at No. 10 did really well for us in Russia [in 2007] and so will be a good influence.”
Evergreen prop Matt Long, at the ripe old age of 36 is very much looking forward to every minute.
“It’s a great opportunity and one I doubt I would ever get to realise outside of rugby,” said Long.
“It’s a different environment to previous tour destinations and I think it will be a much sterner test. Having played the Japanese before they tend to make up for some of their technical limitations with huge fitness levels, organisation and intensity and it won’t be easy, especially facing the conditions.”
Such conditions – which often reach 28 degrees – also include heavy rainfall.
A party of twenty-six from some seventeen clubs across the country will line up against a Korean Presidents XV today, East Japan on Monday and Yamaha Jubilo next Friday before returning home.