CRAIG Burrows has stressed the importance of Oxfordshire getting off to a strong start against Buckinghamshire tomorrow.

The side begin their campaign at Aylesbury in a revamped county cup competition.

Oxon’s need for a victory in their Bill Beaumont Division 3 opener is all the more vital this season as the route to a Twickenham final is shorter than in previous years.

There are no semi-finals, with the Pool 1 and Pool 2 winners contesting the showpiece on May 28.

Head coach Burrows (right) said: “It’s about the first game and momentum.

“It’s extremely important, because we need to give ourselves a chance of getting out of the group.

“If you win your first game, whatever happens in the second, you will always have a chance of making it out the group because two wins would still be enough.

“Just winning the first game makes it easier.”

Oxon’s Pool 1 opener against Bucks will be played on an artificial surface at Aylesbury.

However, that does not concern Burrows and he believes the pitch may help his side.

He said: “We’ve just been training on the grass at Oxford.

“But I know a lot of the players have experienced that type of surface in South West 1 East at Maidenhead and for the kind of game we want to play, I think it will help us more than hinder us.”

Another change in RFU rules has allowed Oxon to select from level four, meaning Chinnor and Henley players are available.

Four players from those clubs are a part of the squad, but Burrows has decided to mostly keep faith in those who have been a key part of the side for the last few years.

Oxford Harlequins’ Jack Robinson and Ed Yeats are expected to start, as is Grove’s Mike Martin.

Banbury’s Ed Phillips, Sam Stoop, Matt Goode and Freddie Cracknell are also set to play and Burrows believes Oxon’s backline could prove pivotal to the side’s success.

He said: “We’ve got to use their strengths.

“There’s a lot of tries in that backline and we’ve got a big, powerful, mobile pack.

“I think county rugby lends itself to an expansive game and I don’t think you can look to play anything else.”


Oxfordshire: from Wright (Amersham & Chiltern), C Chilvers, Cracknell, Goode, C Phillips, E Phillips, Sarr, Stoop (all Banbury), Stock (Chinnor), Bellinger, Martin (both Grove), Burn, Lane, Primett (all Henley), Boulton, Neal, Purchase, Robinson, Yeats (all Oxford Harlequins), Jeffries (Wallingford).