08/05/14 by Paul Bolton
|North Midlands coach Dan Protherough hopes that one of the most famous venues in County Championship rugby will bring the best out of his players when they return to the Bill Beaumont Cup First Division on Saturday May 10.North Midlands face a trip to Redruth’s Recreation Ground and its famous Hellfire Corner for a meeting with Cornwall, who were beaten by Lancashire in last season’s final.
North Midlands are back in the County Championship’s top flight having won promotion last season but they were relegated two years ago when they also played in a tough South pool which included Cornwall, Hertfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Protherough, a former Moseley and Birmingham & Solihull, has stepped up from assistant coach to replace Scott Bemand as North Midlands head coach, and is excited by the challenge that awaits his side.
“We’ve yo-yoed a bit over the last few years but we are back in the top division and we are coming in with the aim of winning the group, that has to be our first target,” Protherough said.
“But our first focus has to be on Cornwall and that will be a great experience for our guys. Cornwall are very passionate about county rugby, there will be a big crowd at Redruth and it will be a chance for us to play at a famous county venue.
“It can be an intimidating place to play but we hope that the boys will enjoy the atmosphere, rise to the occasion and put in a big performance.”
Cornwall also have a new head coach in Graham Dawe, the former England, Bath and Sale hooker who was previously director of rugby at Plymouth Albion.
Cornwall prepared for the County Championship by beating Devon 17-0 in the Tamar Cup last week but North Midlands have not had the benefit of a warm-up match.
Protherough has a new coaching team of Mark Evans, the Old Halesonians and former Moseley number eight, and Birmingham & Solihull’s utility back Rod Petty who has been named among the replacements.
Stourbridge hooker Dale Garner, whose wife is due to give birth this weekend, and his club mate Steffan Shllingford, because of work commitments, are not available for the long trip to Redruth.
A change to County Championship regulations which makes players from Greene King IPA Championship clubs ineligible for the competition means that North Midlands cannot select Moseley players this season.
But Stourbridge, Birmingham & Solihull, Bromsgrove and Luctonians have again given their enthusiastic support to the County Championship.
North Midlands travel to Old Albanians to face Hertfordshire on May 17 and host Gloucestershire at Bromsgrove in their only home match on May 24. The County Championship final will be played at Twickenham on June 1.
North Midlands squad v Cornwall
North Midlands relish Cornish test
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