RUGBY: Ex Lions in Japan

Gareth Collins and Mark Mapletoft

FORMER Rugby Lion Gareth Collins has been selected for England Counties' tour of Japan and Korea.

But it could lead to a bit of an identity crisis as he was a junior hockey international for Wales!

The squad flew out last week, but their first training session was cut short by torrential thunderstorms and lightning.

Gareth, 25, was National League 3 North's top try scorer this season with 29 tries and also played for Warwickshire. Twice scoring six tries in a game, against Bradford and Halifax has also caught the selectors' eye.

The former Lawrence Sheriff School student started his career at Webb Ellis Road in the minis and juniors, playing at county level from U15s to U18s.

He then made the move to Leicester Tigers youth team, but returned to Rugby Lions' first team for three seasons in the early 2000s, playing on the wing. Gareth then switched to Leicester Lions.

Gareth is delighted with his England Counties selection.

"I'm very proud and very excited," he said. "I can't believe it, especially having the opportunity to go to Japan and Korea."

The team will play a Korea President's XV in Seoul tomorrow (Friday), East Japan in Tokyo on Monday and Yamaha Jubilo at Yamaha Resort Tsumagoi next Friday.

"I've been told someone being chosen from Division Three is an amazing achievement, nearly everyone is from Division One and Two," he added.

Gareth will find it strange donning the white shirts of England, after the red of Wales during his hockey days in the Welsh U16s. His father Keith is Welsh, gaining him dual qualification.

Gareth is training to be a teacher at Bosworth Community and Sports College in Leicestershire.

Another former Lion, Mark Mapletoft is also out in Tokyo, Japan at the moment, in charge of England U20s who are competing in the IRB Toshiba Junior World Championships.

Their first game is tomorrow (Friday) against Japan, followed by Scotland on Tuesday.

"We can win it," said the former Lawrence Sheriff student. "And the players early in the season set themselves the target of going one better than last year - but whether we do depends on how we approach each game."