Unbeaten Hampshire will face Sussex this weekend without their three Rowlands Castle aces – including Darren Wright and Billy McKenzie, who have both represented England, writes Andrew Griffin.
But captain Colin Roope believes he can actually field a stronger team for the third south division match of their South East League campaign than the one that survived some anxious moments at Littlehampton 12 months ago, before emerging victorious.
With Rowlands’ Tom Robson also missing, the skipper knows he is lucky to be able to field an eight-man team that still contains the past four county champions.
Roope challenged Hayling’s Toby Burden to use the county championship to make a case to get back into the side – having been left out of last month’s victory in Kent.
And with the player claiming the Sloane Stanley Challenge Cup after beating his captain in the final at Aldershot, the former EuroPro and European Challenge Tour ace went straight back into Roope’s plans for the Sussex game.
Roope, whose team scored 10 points against Dorset and Kent to top the table, said: ‘I am not sure how many counties in England, let alone the south east, can field their last four county champions in a league game.
‘When I knew we would be without Billy, Darren and Robbo as far back as the Dorset game, I thought Sussex would be our most difficult game this season.
‘But the return of our college students – plus the form of the rest of the squad – has been a real bonus.
‘Any other county losing players like Billy, who has won a Spanish Amateur, and The Berkshire, plus Darren – one of the few players in the game’s history to win the Brabazon and Carris – would be very worried.
‘I am not going to underestimate Sussex – we have to prepare properly.
‘But all four of my foursome pairings have played together before, so we are not experimenting come the match.’
Roope has picked North Hants’ former European Tour player Matt Wilcox – a member of the 2017 English County Championship-winning team.
Wilcox claimed last week’s Justin Rose Mid-Amateur Championship, with his regular foursomes partner Martin Young in third place.
Team: Martin Young (Brokenhurst Manor), Toby Burden (Hayling), George Saunders (Lee-on-Solent) Conor Richards, Jordan Sundborg (both Shanklin & Sandown), Alex Talbot, Owen Grimes (both Stoneham), Matt Wilcox (North Hants).