Four Downs players earn Country call-up to take on NSW
FOUR Darling Downs players will be part of the British and Irish Lions rugby roadshow next month.
Mick Gall, Matt Howse, Sam Hogarth and Sam Munsie have been selected in the Queensland Country team that will take on New South Wales Country in Newcastle on June 11.
That game will serve as a curtain-raiser to the British and Irish Lions tour game against the combined Country team from both states, which will feature a handful of country-based players along with Super Rugby players with regional roots like Allora's Greg Holmes.
"We've got four players picked in the Country team which is good news for us," Darling Downs assistant coach Rob Johnston said.
That game will make the star quartet unavailable for the South Queensland Regional Championships which will be played on June 8-9 at the Gold Coast.
Downs Rugby released its 24-man squad for the tournament yesterday and Johnston says it is full of quality despite the absence of the four Country Heelers players, along with injured duo Brendan Sexton and Levi Power.
"The main thing we tried to do was pick in-form players," Johnston said. "Myself and Andrew Skipper have been to every game that we could.
"We've got players from every club on the Downs which is good. It's one of the strongest Darling Downs teams for a while."
Undefeated Toowoomba Bears have the most representatives in the squad with eight players.
Given the distance between players given they hail from clubs like UQ Gatton-Highfields and Roma, the Downs squad will not train in the lead-up to the June long weekend carnival.
Johnston hopes a training camp back in January will help the players be familiarised with their new teams mates, but acknowledges it is difficult to prepare without training in the lead-up.
Darling Downs takes on Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast at the carnival.
Downs squad: Brett Bidstrup, Nick Dunsdon, Charlie Fidow, Tom Finegan, Jim Gallo, Roger Geldard, Blair Gilliver, Terry Harvey, Will Hanton, Mick Jamieson, Andrew Jurgs, David Keys, Andrew Macpherson, Paul Maguire, Brad Neill, Tegh Porter, Sonny Power, Dan Rollinson, James Scanlan, Jay Schulte, James Strang, Jim Tweedy, Andre van Staden, Martin van Staden