West of England Lionhearts to break new ground

THE West of England Lionhearts will play their first game overseas on Sunday – a tough test against Ireland Under 20s at Ashbourne, Meath writes Matt Annis.

Following a series of trial games and warm-up matches, coach Will Brewer has selected a strong 17-man squad for the trip. It features players from nine of the West of England’s 11 community clubs.

There are three players apiece from 2016 Grand Finalists Swindon St George, 2016 Plate winners Oxford Cavaliers, and 2015 runners up Bristol Sonics. The squad also contains two players from Cheltenham Phoenix and Somerset Vikings, and one each from Gloucestershire Warriors, Bath RLFC and Forest Bulldogs.

The West of England Lionhearts was established in the summer of 2016 to give talented amateur players from the region the opportunity to test their Rugby League skills at a higher level. The side has previously played games against other regional representative teams and some forces sides, though Sunday’s encounter will undoubtedly by their toughest task yet.

West of England Lionhearts Team Manager Chris Chatten said: “When we established the side last year, we wanted to offer players an opportunity to test themselves at a higher level. The clubs and players have bought into the concept, and performances have improved with each successive game.

“This weekend’s trip to Ireland will be our toughest assignment yet. The Ireland Under 20s will be a quality side, so we’ll have to be at our best to beat them. However, I’m confident that with the quality we have in our squad, we should be able to put some pressure on the Irish side.”

The team is: Mike McGrath (Southampton Spitfires), Ronan Murphy (Somerset Vikings), Rich O’Donnell (Cheltenham Phoenix), Joe Knight (Bath RLFC), Paul Bartlett (Cheltenham Phoenix), Ashley Lewis (Gloucestershire Warriors), Jamie Deal (Swindon St George), Ben Brinkworth (Swindon St George), Alex Potts (Bristol Sonics), Dan Jamieson (Oxford Cavaliers), George Day (Forest Bulldogs), Matt Blacker (Bristol Sonics), George Lenton Hall (Oxford Cavaliers). Subs: Byron Edwards (Bristol Sonics), George Cowley (Swindon St George), Dan Brooker (Oxford Cavaliers), James Collings (Somerset Vikings).