FORMER Leeds Tykes and Wakefield winger Jon Feeley takes charge of Yorkshire for the first time today hoping to produce a brand of rugby that will see more players want to represent their county again.
While West Leeds are in action at Twickenham this lunchtime, facing Withycombe in the RFU Senior Vase Final, Feeley will look to guide the White Rose there, too, as the County Championship begins.
The 37-year-old, who cut his coaching teeth with Wharfedale, begins his reign as Yorkshire host Lancashire at Scarborough RUFC this afternoon (3pm). Yorkshire then face away games at Cheshire (Sale FC) next Saturday and Eastern Counties (Cambridge University) the following week as they seek to progress to Twickenham for the final on Sunday May 29.
Feeley said: “I’m proud to take on the role and it’s a fantastic opportunity to make an impact on the county scene.
“I’ve got a really good platform to start with and have been given the freedom to shape how I’d like things to work.
“I’ve been able to bring in some of my own coaching staff and selected a lot of younger players from around the county who are performing at a high level.
“We’re looking to deliver a brand of positive, open rugby at pace which in turn will encourage players to represent their county again.
“Given the physical demands of a long season, and with players being so tired, part of my job is simply management of the players and making sure they’re in the right frame of mind to go out there and perform again.”
Wharfedale No 8 Rob Baldwin, whose attributes Feeley knows well from Threshfield, captains the hosts and there are seven other Greens in the squad, though mainly on the bench.
Dale winger Oli Cicognini and centre Cameron Hudson do start, as does Otley No12 Mike Coady, but it is Hull Ionians who make up the bulk of Yorkshire’s starting XV. Hooker Ali Thomson, tighthead Steve Johnson, locks Joe Makin and Ed Falkingham plus openside Lawrence Cowan are all named in the pack while Ionians half-backs Adam Thomas and Greg Lound are put in charge of directing the play.
Meanwhile, Rotherham Titans have announced 22 new signings for their 2016-17 Championship campaign and retained just nine of their current crop.
“It’s been very hard work,” explained head coach Justin Burnell, who replaced Mark Jones in February but can now shape his own squad.
He added: “But I think we’ll all be happy with what we’ve assembled; we’ve managed to get some really good lads and I think the supporters will be happy with the quality.
“We’ve got lads like Tom Hicks coming from Gloucester, Miles Normandale who’s played at the top level with Cardiff Blues and Joe Rees, a great player who’s been with Worcester and before that with Ospreys.
“Tom Williams is coming to us from Bedford.
“He’s currently playing in the play-offs and I think he’s the best loose-head in the Championship,” he said.
“It’s all shaping up really well and I’m confident we’ll give it a really good go next year.”