North East regional preview

NORTHUMBERLAND'S county team has a new senior coach, with Northumbria University's head of rugby Simon Culley taking over from Tynedale's Tom Borthwick.

NORTHUMBERLAND'S county team has a new senior coach, with Northumbria University's head of rugby Simon Culley taking over from Tynedale's Tom Borthwick.

Northumberland were last season relegated to the second division of the County Championship, but their new appointment has a record of success at that level after recording back-to-back RFU County Shields at Twickenham during his time with Dorset and Wiltshire.

The county averaged 44 points per match during his last 12 games in charge, with Culley stating: "I know how important county rugby is in Northumberland, and it is an exciting prospect to work in such a well-supported environment.

"Creating the right atmosphere and culture within the programme is key to developing player buy-in. Ensuring that every player who attends a session feels they go away with some added value is vital to them wanting to return, even if they are not a starting XV player.

"Part of this is ensuring there is a constant supply of young players gaining experience and pushing more established players for positions. This supplies competitiveness and energy to train that may otherwise be missing at the end of a long season, and is why the well-developed under-20s programme will be so important to the long-term success of the senior county team."

Northumberland county chairman Andy Thompson added: "Simon brings tremendous energy and enthusiasm, coupled with an impressive coaching pedigree in addition to his Senior County XV success."

In National One Blaydon are at home to last season's relegated Championship outfit Esher, while Tynedale travel to Cambridge. Westoe's quest for a first league win in National Two North takes them to Hull, and the club have enhanced their prospects by signing Blaydon scrum-half Matthew Mellish and lock Dan Palmer, the ex-London Scottish man who is returning to his home town of Horden.

Director of rugby Andy Howells hopes to add further recruits in the coming weeks, with RFU red tape currently delaying one of the intended signings.

Percy Park player-coach James Ponton returns for tomorrow’s visit of National Three North leaders Chester.

Meanwhile, Newcastle’s Sarah Hunter will captain England’s Women’s team when they host France at Esher RFC on November 3. Regular skipper Katy McLean, from South Shields, is among the players rested ahead of the three-test series against New Zealand.

MARK SMITH

 

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