Devon pair describe England Counties tour to Georgia as 'fantastic'

30 May 2018 12:19 | Sara Raine

DEVON players Mitch Pinkus and Max Keen have described going on tour to Georgia with the England Counties Under-20 side as an ‘amazing and fantastic experience’.

The pair helped England return unbeaten with a 24-17 victory over Georgia’s Under-20 World Cup side before a 24-22 win over a Georgia development XV.

Exmouth flanker Keen came on as a replacement in the first match and started the second, while Ivybridge fly-half Pinkus came on in second game and kicked a last-gasp, long-range penalty to seal victory for England.

Both players believe they benefitted tremendously from the trip.

“The 11 days went really, really fast, but it was an amazing experience,” said Pinkus.

Keen added: “It was lots of fun and a fantastic experience.

“The best bit was just putting on the jersey and playing for my country. I enjoyed every second on the field and winning both games was tremendous.”

Pinkus admitted it was great to get a taste of what it is like in a full-time professional rugby set-up.

“It was a professional environment,” he said. “We had physios and doctors over there assessing the lads and making sure we were all fit, we’d also have meetings and different things. We’d go out for a morning session then an evening session, but we’d also have recovering and mobility sessions and ice-baths. It literally was like a professional camp.  I think that is what they try and prepare you for. I thought it was outstanding.”

He added:  “The standard of rugby out there was just amazing. I really couldn’t fault anything about going out there.

“Playing with lads who are in National One and National Two has really helped progress my rugby and has pushed me on to be a better player.”

Pinkus continued: “At first I found it really hard training twice a day in the hot heat. It was like 28 degrees, but you get used to it and you also get used to the other players and how the coaching staff work with you.

“You felt the coaches not only wanted to win but they also wanted you to develop as a player. I think they achieved that as I have left a better player than when I went.”

Pinkus had been disappointed not to feature in England’s first game, but he admitted he would not have swapped anything for the way his tour ended.

He came on when England were training 15-6 in the second fixture and he claimed eight points to help them win, including the match-winning kick with the last play of the game.

“It was unbelievable,” said Pinkus. “I wasn’t included in the first game and looking back I was upset, but I was part of the 26-man squad and just being part of that team was fantastic.

“As a kid I always dreamed of pulling that shirt on and that ending was just magical. I couldn’t have hoped for anything better. It was amazing.”

On his match-winning kick, Pinkus said: “I just thought it is just another kick at the end of the day. You just have to try your best – if it goes over, it goes over, but if it doesn’t no-one would fault you for it.

“I would say it was about two-metres in from the touchline and about 35 metres out. It wasn’t my easiest kick but it was probably the best kick I have ever done and probably will be for the rest of my career.

“It was unbelievable having all the lads run straight to me and accidentally getting head-butted and punched as they celebrated. It was just incredible.”

Flanker Keen enjoyed testing himself against Georgia’s tough pack.

“The Georgian side were very physical and put a lot of big hits in, but I think us as a squad performed and out-did one of the better under-20s packs in the world, which was a fantastic achievement,” said Keen.

“Like I said, it was a fantastic experience and I have taken on quite a bit. I just want to try and get better and better now.”