Shanahn named England Counties’ new backs coach

FORMER Old Albanian head coach James Shanahan has been appointed as the new backs coach for the England Counties squad.

Shanahan, who left Woollams in April to take the head coach role at Plymouth Albion, takes over from Jan Bonney and his first duty will be to contribute to selection and to work with the chosen squad for the 2014 Spring Internationals against France and Ireland.

The 36-year-old brings considerable experience to his Counties role. During eight years in the National Leagues, Shanahan was director of rugby and a player at Cambridge between 2005-10, taking the side from National Three South to second place in National Two, before joining Old Albanian.

Shanahan said: “I’ve always been a big fan of the England Counties so it was a no brainer to take the opportunity to become part of the set up. I’m looking forward to coaching an international side and working with the best up and coming players in the National Leagues.

“There are lots of very talented players who I think could play in the Greene King IPA Championship and it’s about giving them the chance to prove themselves on the big stage.

“My background gives me a good understanding of players in those leagues and the style of play which will be a huge benefit for both me and the England Counties.”

Shanahan’s playing history includes Plymouth, Exeter, Bedford Blues, Cornish Pirates, Cambridge and Old Albanian, where, in his dual role as centre and director of rugby, he scored 11 tries in 22 games last season.

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Equally successful at County level, Shanahan led Hertfordshire to the Championship Final at Twickenham in 2012 and coached Cambridge University where he worked alongside Pope.

“The England Counties have a strong results record from successful tours and good performances in the international fixtures so it will be a case of ensuring more of the same and supporting and implementing the plans that Steve has.” Shanahan added.

Shanahan will hold the position of backs coach with the England Counties for the next two years and in confirming his appointment, team manager Michael Old said: “It’s credit to James that he got the nod in the face of tough competition. He has supported the England Counties through the various roles held in recent years and is familiar with the quality of players he will have at his disposal.

“Acknowledgement goes to the role played by Jan Bonney over the last four years with the Counties. Jan has been a fantastic coach, enjoying a natural rapport with players and putting in place very high standards on the pitch. We are looking forward to James carrying that on and bringing his own mark to the future squads.”