Rugby - Lions star Fox helps England to victory

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Darren Fox helped England to victory over France last night (March 20).

The Peterborough Lions player/coach was in the England Counties side that beat the France Federale XV 24-15 at a rain-soaked Stade Francais Rongieras in Perigueux.

Fox played at openside flanker and did well in a physical but try-less contest.

Fylde fly-half Chris Johnson kicked eight penalties for England. It was only the second time that the Counties had won in France and it avenged a one point defeat by the Federale XV in Nevers 12 months ago.

It followed a 37-3 win over Scotland Club XV at Fylde three weeks ago and meant that the Counties went through their two match spring programme without conceding a try.

Johnson kicked England Counties into a 12-0 lead before France drew level but a mature and composed display ensured that France gave away penalties under pressure and the Fylde fly-half held his nerve to secure the win.

“It was a bit of an arm wrestle but the boys really ground it out. The whole squad were involved and really worked hard,” said England Counties head coach Steve Pope.

“There were lots of mistakes and it was a bit of cauldron atmosphere but the boys stayed very composed.

“We took the points when we got the opportunity and Chris put them away. We were unlucky when Matt Miles broke through and nearly snuck through nut got caught short.

“But to play two spring internationals and not concede a try is something that we are very pleased with.

“We think this is the first time we have won both spring internationals and it’s the first time we have won in France for a long time.

“We are absolutely delighted. For the boys to come together in such a short space of time typifies what the Counties is all about.

“The boys are so desperate to work for each other. When we announced the team you could see the disappointment in the faces of those who weren’t starting. But the boys who were on the bench led the warm-up and kept everybody upbeat.

“I’m particularly pleased for James Shanahan as assistant coach because he stepped up when I couldn’t travel up to Fylde for the Scotland.

“He made such a big impact that there and held things together. I enjoy working with him and things really seem to flow.”

England Counties, the flagship representative team of the community game in England, will next be in action in June when they play two matches on their summer tour of Romania.

England Counties XV

15. Mike Wilcox (Cinderford)

14. Will Hurrell (Coventry)

13. Markus Burcham (Blackheath)

12. Seb Rodwell (London Irish Wild Geese)

11. Ollie Brennand (Fylde)

10. Chris Johnson (Fylde)

9. Joe Bedford (Sandal)

1. Aston Croall (Blackheath)

2. Sam Wilkes (Cinderford)

3. Steve Johnson (Hull Ionians)

4. Keith Laughlin (Blaydon)

5. Ben Hilton (Launceston)

6. Billy Johnson (captain, Old Albanians)

7. Darren Fox (Peterborough Lions)

8. Gavin Jones (Blaydon).

Replacements: Matt Miles (Worthing Raiders), Robbie Kalbraier (Blaydon), Tom Harrison (Clifton), Chris Wearmouth (Blaydon), Evan Stewart (Fylde), Jack Daly (Old Albanians), Cameron Mitchell (Darlington Mowden Park), James Love (Ealing Trailfinders).