Super boost for Country
Combined Country coach Cam Blades has been able to dip into Super Rugby resources for his squad to face the B&I Lions.
Combined Country coach Cam Blades has been able to dip into Super Rugby resources for his squad to face the British & Irish Lions in a tour match in Newcastle on Tuesday, June 11.
A total of 10 Super Rugby players have been named in the 23-man squad, alongside four Premier club players, five Queensland Country players, and four NSW Country players.
Blades and his coaching staff, which includes NSW Country coach Col Jeffs, Queensland Country coach Garrick Morgan and Todd Louden, selected the team following the announcement of the preliminary 43-man squad last week.
"We had such a massive pool of players that fitted the criteria," Blades said.
"Out of the 43 we had to figure out who we thought would be the likely starting fifteen and then had to look at what the bench options would be.
"With Super Rugby still active until we play there still could be some more movement in the squad and so we've been very mindful of that.
"We've been negotiating with the Super Rugby franchises about which players will be available.
"Depending on what changes are required going forward there could be a few tricky decisions still to be made."
With the squad decided, focus now turns to preparing for the match against the Lions at Hunter Stadium with the squad coming together in camp in Newcastle next Thursday, June 6.
"The challenge isn't just to make the team, the challenge is to take on the Lions and see where we can take it," Blades said.
"What the Lions can expect is a bunch of blokes who are going to come together with a common goal of absolutely taking the game to them.
"We'll certainly be going in there to display our skillset while being mindful of trying to shut down a lot of the threats that the Lions possess and give ourselves the opportunity to play a bit of Rugby and see if we can pull off an historic win."
Blades believes the game between Combined Country and the best from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as part of the Lions Tour, provides a rare chance to showcase Australian Country rugby.
"It's a great opportunity for the guys who are still actively playing in the bush and for those born in the country or have a playing history in the country, whatever playing level they're at," Blades said.
"We have plenty of guys in the squad at amateur level who will get the once in a Rugby lifetime chance to pit themselves against professionals that are all hardened Rugby players.
"It'll be a massive occasion and a massive challenge.
"It's a good opportunity for them to put their skills on display and see if they can use this game to launch themselves further up the pathway.
"It's also a very unlikely occasion, it almost certainly won't happen again for all of the players, most will never get the chance to play against a touring Lions side again.
"There might be the odd player in the camp whose Super Rugby team may play them in the Tour, but outside of that it will be a once in a lifetime experience for these guys and something I'm sure they'll cherish."
Combine Country squad: Rikki Abraham, Dale Ah-Wong, Phoenix Battye, Jarrad Butler, Lewie Catt, Tom Cox, Tim Davidson, Trent Dyer, Blake Enever, Dylan Evans, Alex Gibbon, Ben Greentree, Haydn Hirsimaki, Tom Kearney, Josh Mann-Rae, Adam McCormack, Tim Metcher, Angus Roberts, Beau Robinson, Tereta-Junior Siakisini, Michael Snowden, Richard Stanford, Nathan Trist.