Durham rugby hope not to freeze at Twickenham in County Championship final v Kent

FIRST TRY: Cameron Mitchell scores for Durham in the win over East Midlands
FIRST TRY: Cameron Mitchell scores for Durham in the win over East Midlands

CHRIS Hyndman is backing his Durham stars to flourish not freeze at Twickenham.

Durham’s players are less than 48 hours away from the biggest day of their rugby lives.

The side face Kent in Sunday’s Billy Beaumont Cup Second Division final at the most famous rugby stadium on the planet (kick-off 10am).

Durham have already achieved their first aim – promotion back to the highest tier of the County Championship and next year they will be playing Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire in the northern First Division.

But first, Durham look to put the icing on the cake by beating Kent in the North-East v South-East battle to lift the county’s first major title since they defeated Cornwall in 1989.

And assistant coach Hyndman is confident – even though the Durham squad are a bunch of Twickenham first timers.

The team is not lacking in expertise or belief – 13 of the starting XV play in the national league structure and the two that don’t, Horden’s Richie Thirkell and Paul Malcolm, have just won their division title with Horden.

Hyndman, who appeared on four occasions at Twickenham as a player, believes they will enjoy the big stage and not suffer from stage fright.

“I think the overwhelming emotion is excitement,” said Billingham’s player-coach.

“I went around a lot of the boys after training on Wednesday night and none of them had played at Twickenham.

“Even some of the more experienced ones, lads like Chris Wearmouth who have played a lot for England Counties, have not played there.

“It’s brilliant for the players.

“They have all had hard seasons for their clubs and we’ve asked them to train and play for another.

“I’ve been there myself when your body is battered and you don’t think you have anything left.

“But they had something left – the lads have put together two great wins and now this, what a great end to the season.

“They’ve got the opportunity to do something they will probably only get to do once in their lifetime.

“They are getting to play at Twickenham and trying to win the cup for Durham for the first time in 25 years.

“I do think they’ll enjoy it.

“Twickenham is a nice wide pitch and a great surface to play rugby.

“Our game is about moving the ball wide and some like Peter Evans will have a fantastic time out there.”

The only downside for Durham – and Kent – is the kick-off time, an almost-bizarre 10am.

Durham v Kent is the opening third of a mouth-watering triple bill.

Yorkshire v Cornwall in the First Division Billy Beaumont Cup final follows it and then its the main event – England v the Barbarians.

The start time probably presents Hyndman and head coach Martin Pepper with more headaches than the emotion of the occasion.

“We have a long drive down tomorrow and we’ll probably eat on the way so when we get there the lads can get to bed early and get enough sleep,” said Hyndman.

“I can imagine the last time the lads started a game this early was when they were in the Under 13s!

“It’s up to use we make sure we prepare right.

“The physios will be ready early on Sunday morning if the lads need anything doing.

“When we’re at Twickenham there’ll be people telling the lads they can’t go through this door or that door and it may feel as though we are being herded like cattle.

“We’ll probably have to warm up out the back but we’re telling the lads not to worry about the stuff like that.

“It’s the time out on Twickenham’s pitch which matters.

“The lads are excited and they can’t wait, so may be me and Martin may need to calm them down a bit.

“They have worked really hard for this moment and we want them to go out and play as we know they can.

“We want them to enjoy it and not be overrawed – I’m sure they will be all right.”