Cornwall head coach Graham Dawe says that the decision by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to cancel all county representative rugby for 2020-21 has come as little surprise to the former England international, writes Gareth Davies.
With the Duchy, who are current Bill Beaumont Cup holders, unable to make the defence of their trophy this season, the cancellation of next year’s competition was part of a wider-reaching cost cutting scheme from the RFU due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dawe, speaking exclusively to The Independent on Friday, also gave his thoughts on how the county championship, once considered to be a jewel in English rugby’s crown, needs an ‘open and honest review’.
The former Bath hooker, who represented England at two World Cups, also stressed that for a lot of players, the Bill Beaumont Cup is still of upmost importance.
“Once we knew that next season was going to start late, the RFU were always under pressure so it’s not something that was unexpected,” he began. “It is shame, but as we all know, club rugby takes precedence.
“We know the competition has been under review for several years and we have to make as much noise as we possibly can to keep it going and get it played in a better part of the season.
“There have been lots of ideas been put out there over the years in terms of how the competition goes forward, but representative rugby is very important to a lot of players who want to aspire. We need an open and honest review between the rugby community of where representative rugby of this kind fits within the calendar, but if it can’t then that’s life.”
The County Championship being shelved wasn’t the only significant Cornish rugby news this week as Matt Shepherd, who kicked the winning points for Cornwall in their Twickenham final win over Cheshire year ago, has left Redruth and re-joined former club Plymouth Albion.
As revealed first in the Indy three weeks ago, Shepherd is back at Brickfields after a year away because of his work commitments at Ivybridge School. Dawe, who has previously been in charge of the Ocean City club himself, praised Shepherd and the fact he would be eligible for Cornish selection, whilst plying his trade in the third tier.
“You want to get as many players as possible playing at the highest level possible and Matt Shepherd is a wonderful player, a cracking talent and someone who embodies Cornish rugby,” Dawe added. “He plays with his heart on his sleeve and he is a good leader.”
Meanwhile, Shepherd himself explained his decision to leave Redruth and hailed the new era that is dawning at Albion under their recently appointed head coach Damian Welch.
He said: “I’m working up at Ivybridge, as people know, just the time travelling from work to Redruth and back, it just got a little too much, the opportunity to come back to Plymouth came around. The new set up I’ve heard about from Herbie (Stupple) and the boys, how Damian has come in and really put his stamp on things. I think it is a really good opportunity to push on and see what we can do with Plymouth as a club.
“Being an old boy at the club, being part of that group who have been there since the start, I spoke to the likes of George (Mills), Dean Squire, Herbie and Alex Ducker. I was just keeping in touch with them seeing how it was going last year and what sort of things are on the horizon really. I really enjoyed my time at Redruth, it was awesome to have the opportunity to coach and play but with the travel, it made sense with my life and work up here.”