Mark Nelson speaks out about the County Championship

Mark Nelson’s letter about county championship rugby to The Rugby Paper was published in last Sunday’s edition (Sunday, 4th August).

“I have heard and read comments regarding the Bill Beaumont County Championship that I can’t let go unanswered.

It has been suggested that the competition simply serves as a shop window for players to display their talents in front of club scouts “who are keen to bolster their playing squad for the following season”. That it no longer provides a pathway to the England side and that it has no value in the modern game.

Tread carefully with those notions, for it is not my dreams you tread on, it is the dreams of the players who pull on their county shirt in May after a brutal season of league rugby.

The players that play with heart and soul for three massive games striving to reach the final at Twickenham. The players from the Shires that grew up as teenagers playing age group County rugby, from Redruth to Morpeth, who now, as adults, regard the Bill Beaumont Cup as the pinnacle of their representative ambition and are proud to be selected to play for their County.

That is 99% of adult rugby players. County rugby is as pure and as valid now as it ever has been. No one gets paid, there are no contracts, no agents fees … yes, they play for the love of the game and the pride they have in their county.

I challenge any of the mud throwers to come with me to team meeting of my Lancashire team, or Graham Dawes’ Cornwall side and stand in front of those players and say “all you are playing in is a shop window for National League clubs in a competition that has no validity in the modern game” … and see what response you get.

The County Championship is probably the nearest thing representing the core values of the game that we have left.

Before you call me naïve, I have been a club coach in the professional game since its inception and been down every dark alley of player horse trading there is. And I’ve coached Lancashire since 2002. Experience has given me the right to say I actually do know what I’m talking about.”

Mark Nelson
Lancashire Coach