County Championship Plate rugby final previews

DURHAM take the field at the Friarage tomorrow with a full-strength XV for the County Championship Plate final against Eastern Counties.

Here, SportMail takes a look at who’s who in the County squad.

15. Simon Moore (Middlesbrough, full-back), a 32-year-old police officer from Billingham. Son of former Rovers and Durham forward, John Moore. Five appearances for Durham.

14. Gareth Foreman (Hartlepool Rovers, winger), a 24-year-old welder from Hartlepool, who also lists his occupation as a model! Brothers Brian and Andrew are also rugby players. Seven appearances for Durham.

13. Rob McDermott (Durham Univ, centre), a 22-year-old student from Leek in Staffordshire. Seven appearances for Durham.

12. Chris Dunlop (Durham Univ), a 21-year-old student from Edinburgh, a try scorer in the semi-final win over Sussex. Four appearances for Durham.

11. Oli Brennand (Durham Univ, winger), a 21-year-old student from Blackpool, whose home club is Fylde. Returns after injury tomorrow. Seven appearances for Durham.

10. Lee Richardson (Darlington, stand-off), a 30-year-old PE teacher, who lives in Ingleby Barwick. Four appearances for Durham.

9. Tom Basey (Durham Univ, scrum-half and captain), a 23-year-old student from Windsor. Seven appearances for Durham.

1. Gareth Nesbit (Westoe, prop), a 26-year-old agency director who lives in Sunderland. Four appearances for Durham.

2. Dan Osleton (Darlington, hooker), a 23-year-old student from Catterick. Seven appearances for Durham.

3. Joe Osleton (Darlington, prop), a 27-year-old Richmond-born forester and big brother of Dan. Five appearances for Durham.

4. Matthew Muchall (Westoe, lock), a 25-year-old personal trainer from South Shields. Six appearances for Durham.

5. Paul Bird (Westoe, lock), a 26-year-old IT consultant from South Shields. Six appearances for Durham.

6. Stuart Palmer (H’pool Rovers, flanker), a 21-year-old student from Hartlepool. A product of Hartlepool RFC’s youth set-up. Six appearances for Durham.

7. Dan Cooper (Durham Univ, flanker), a 21-year-old student from Stamford, Lincolnshire, who is on Leicester Tigers books. Five appearances for Durham.

8. Michael Taylor (H’pool Rovers, number eight), a 22-year-old engineer from Hartlepool. Eight appearances for Durham.

SUBS: David Tate (Gateshead, full-back), a 23-year-old marketing man from Gateshead. Five appearances for Durham.

Jimmy Atkinson (Durham City, winger), a 23-year-old sports development officer from Weardale. Five appearances for Durham.

Alistair Simmie (Durham University, stand-off), a 21-year-old student. No appearances for Durham.

Mark Cammiss (Durham City, prop), a 31-year-old process technician from Durham. Seven appearances for Durham.

Andrew Dixon (West Hartlepool, hooker), a 31-year-old solicitor from Hartlepool. Six appearances for Durham.

Mark Power (H’pool Rovers, lock), a 27-year-old chemical process technician. Seven appearances for Durham.

Graeme Smith (Westoe, number eight), a 23-year-old teacher from South Shields. Two appearances for Durham.

COACHES: Ali McConway, a 33-year-old school teacher from South Shields and Magnus Leask, a 34-year-old company director from Wellington, New Zealand.

COACH Ali McConway believes Durham’s team spirit has been the prime factor behind the county’s rags-to-riches story.

Durham have suffered some barren years since the county reached the 1994 Championship final at Twickenham and this season found themselves playing in the bottom tier of the competition.

And, despite being without the stars of the county’s two National League clubs, Blaydon and Darlington Mowden Park, Durham have hit a hot winning streak, culminating in tomorrow’s County Championship Plate final.

Eastern Counties stand in their way at the Friarage (3pm kick-off).

Former West Hartlepool coach and New Zealand great Mike Brewer coined the expression: TEAM, Together, Everyone Achieves More.

And it is a motto carried on by McConway and his right-hand man Magnus Leask.

“There was a comment made by one of the players that when you get to play first team rugby that the next step should be to play for the county,” said McConway.

“Unfortunately, for some clubs and players it is not like that.

“For others, like the lads we have here, it is. They are desperate to play for Durham and do well.

“That has been evident in the performances. They all played for each other and have been prepared to put their bodies on the line.

“And when someone has taken a knock, they have put up their hands up straight away – they haven’t tried to struggle on because they knew there was a good, fit lad on the bench to come on.

“That’s may be the kind of team spirit that has not been there for the last few years.”

Whatever happens between 3pm-4.30pm tomorrow, the county, skippered by scrum-half Tom Basey (pictured), are already promoted to next year’s Shield competition.

It has been a dream first season in charge for McConway and Leask.

They were the leading lights when Westoe romped to the Durham Northumberland title in 2001, McConway as number eight and skipper and Leask as stand-off.

Now they are the coaches of Gateshead, who have recently won Durham Northumberland Division One, with the loss of only two matches.

Winning is something which appears to be a habit continued in County rugby – they have won all four matches this season, scoring 144 points.

Their coaching – and man-management – skills appear to be perfect.

“We’ve not tried to be dictating to them as coaches but letting them play to their strengths. We feel the team has really benefited from that approach,” said McConway.

“The players have paid us back 10-fold – they have been fantastic in everything they’ve done.”

Silly ruggers

IS the mega-rich Rugby Football Union trying to scrimp and save on expenses for tomorrow’s team of officials?

Referee Revis Phillips will have the arduous journey to Hartlepool from ... Wolviston.

But before Eastern Counties cry foul that a home-towner is in charge, it must be pointed out that Revis is a Yorkshire Society official, who lives and works in this area. He is a top-class operator too.

His touch judges will be Omar Sharif of Durham referees, Derek Blake (originally from Billingham and his late brother, Dave, was a Rover) and Northumberland’s Fraser Gill.

Brendan Fitzmaurice of Yorkshire is the fourth official. He too will have a mammoth petrol bill ... he’s coming from Middlesbrough!

First time for rivals

DURHAM will be playing Eastern Counties for the first time.

It will be the county’s third ‘first’ of the County Plate Championship campaign as they had also never previously played Essex or Sussex.

Eastern Counties are three counties in one – an amalgamation of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

It used to be four counties until Essex broke away and gained independence, although some clubs from that county stayed loyal to EC.

Lucky seven

DURHAM will be hoping it is a case of lucky seven tomorrow.

A century ago, they shared the 1907 County title after drawing with Devon.

And in 1967, they drew again, this time with Surrey, 14-14 at Twickenham and 0-0, I kid you not, at the Friarage in the replay.

What price a draw in 2007?

All white on the night

HARTLEPOOL Rovers fans in the crowd tomorrow, do not cheer for the wrong team!

For Eastern Counties will be kitted out in white shirts, black shorts and black socks – pretty much the Rovers home kit.

Durham will be in their familiar maroon jerseys, white shorts and maroon socks.

Like father, like son

MIDDLESBROUGH full-back Simon Moore will collect his County cap at the official dinner tomorrow night.

Durham award a cap after five appearances and it will be a proud day for his family as dad John won his almost 30 years ago while a number eight for Rovers. John will be in the crowd tomorrow to cheer on Moore Jnr.

Mum’s the word

DURHAM’S man of the match from their semi-final win over Sussex, flanker Dan Cooper, is a pretty special talent. Watching his performance last Saturday was worth the 3 admission fee on its own.

He comes from a very sporting family. His mother gained a Blue at Oxford University at hockey.

Golden oldies

DURHAM could have some old favourites in the crowd supporting them.

A number of survivors of the 1967 finals again Surrey were at the Friarage for last Saturday’s win over Sussex, namely former England, Barbarians and British Lions duo John Dee and Mike Weston, plus Wilf Woodward and Tommy Urwin.

With Ian Brown, Keith Winn and George Zizzler – who had all played in the lead up to the final – there, it was bizarre to see more of the 1967 brigade than Durham’s most recent visitors to Twickenham.

The 1989 Durham number eight Bryan Dixon was at his old stamping ground but there was no sign of any of his team-mates, nor anyone from the 1994 side which lost to Yorkshire.

Come on ‘young’ fellas, don’t be put in the shade by the pensioners!