Counties keep Under-20s waiting for final decision

WAITING FOR THE CALL. Sean Smith in action for Sudbury. He will find out today if he is in the Eastern Counties squad
WAITING FOR THE CALL. Sean Smith in action for Sudbury. He will find out today if he is in the Eastern Counties squad

Sudbury players Fraser Beckett, Tom Summers and Shaun Smith will be waiting anxiously for a phone call this morning.

All three will learn today if they are in the Eastern Counties squad for the final of the RFU National Under-20s Shield competition against Oxfordshire at Coventry’s Butts Stadium on Sunday (3pm).

They took part in their final training session last night, where the under-20s squad trained with the Eastern Counties senior side, and the final selection is due to be made today.

“Having the under-20s and seniors together gives an edge to the training,” said under-20s head coach Mark Bolton.

The former Sudbury coach and player, currently head of PE at Uplands Middle School, but who starts a new job at Culford School in September, hung up his boots at the end of the season.

Having played alongside Beckett, Summers and Smith, he is well qualified to judge them.

“Fraser came in for the semi-final against Cambridge University and made a spectacular statement at scrum-half,” he said. “Tom is a thoughtful player at full-back, who performed well in the semi-final.

“Shaun has been in and out of the squad, but he’s another good player and all three are very much in contention for a place in the final squad.

“The under-20s have been good to coach. They are a good set of lads, a very young side, a very skilful group of players, and exciting to watch.

“I have a lot of trust in them, and they have responded well to the management team.”

On Sunday, Bolton’s aim is to keep things simple for the players.

“It’s a final, so they are bound to be nervous, but I want them to enjoy the day,” he said.

Oxfordshire are an unknown quantity, but Bolton is not worried about the opposition.

“I’m focusing my time on preparing my players for the game,” he said. “To see them through to the final is special.”

Eastern Counties reached the final with four comfortable victories, putting 107 points on Buckinghamshire in their first group game, away and beating Cambridge University 43-14 at Sudbury’s Whittome Field in the second.

They came back to Sudbury for both knockout game, beating Surrey 55-12 in the quarter-final, and Cambridge University 62-17 in the semi-final.

Many of the players, aged 18 and 19, will be available for the Under-20s squad next season, a prospect which excites Bolton. “And we have some exzcellent players coming up from the age group below, which makes the future look very promising,” he said.

Six days after the final Bolton will be on the touchline again, this time coaching Eastern Counties seniors in their home Billy Beaumont county championship group match against East Midlands at Cambridge.