ESSEX men’s rugby team hope to clinch their place in a Twickenham final this weekend.
The county side - which included six players from south-east Essex - face Buckinghamshire at East London Rugby Club on Saturday.
And head coach Tony Woods is keen to secure the result Essex need to reach the world famous home of English rugby.
“Everyone is hugely excited and there was a great buzz at training this week,” said Woods.
“It’s a big opportunity and hopefully it’s one we’ll be able to take, especially as the team is really starting to gel together now.
“The players all came in after the end of the season with clubs which - with a few play-offs going on - ended at different times.
“But we’ve won our two pool games so far and want to go and make it three now.”
Essex kicked off their campaign with a convincing 37-8 win against the combined Notts, Lincs and Derbyshire side before seeing off Oxfordshire 30-29 in an exciting contest.
The two victories mean Essex top the pool with 10 points, ahead of both Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire who are joint second with seven points.
And Woods is therefore expecting an exciting closing day.
“Three of the four teams can still top the pool and reach Twickenham so it’s going to be exciting,” said Woods.
“But it’s very much in our own hands so we’re just focusing on getting the result we need.”
Southend skipper Marcus Bloomberg has been selected in Essex’s starting line-up along with Saxons’ fly-half Brad Burr while youngster George Griffiths has been named among the replacements.
South Woodham Ferrers’ back row duo Ross Noakes and Liam Searles have also been chosen in the squad along with Thurrock scrum-half Alex Jones.
But 28 different players have already been used in the matches.
“We’ve made changes during the campaign and we’ve already used quite a lot of different players,” said Woods.
“We started off by sending emails to all of the clubs in Essex asking for the names of players who they thought would be good enough to play county standard rugby.
“We also held trials and training sessions and were able to select the squad from that.
“I’ve been pleased with the standard of the group and I’m confident we can produce another good performance at the weekend.”
And Southend youngster Griffiths is also eager to triumph.
“It’s amazing how far Essex rugby has come in the past years as in the past we would probably have been on the receiving end of a few loses and wouldn’t have got as far as we have,” said the 18-year-old.
“The chance of going to Twickenham for most people is a once in a lifetime experience and we have to make sure we win this game on Saturday to take this chance.”