In sharp contrast to their senior counterparts in South Africa, England RU Counties XV arrived in Russia for their ground-breaking three-match tour to Russia with their selected squad fully intact.

The Counties XV, the representative rugby flagship of the county and community game outside the Guinness Premiership, even survived last weekend's County Championship finals, in which six of the 26 players heading for a 14-day visit to Russia were involved.

As a result, the Devon and Plymouth Albion duo of centre Arran Cruickshanks and Tim Mathias and the Warwickshire pair of lock David Campton and prop Carl Rimmer will be heading off with recent memories of county wins to spur them on, while Somerset duo of Chris Morgan and Glenn Cooper will be glad to have come through their final game unscathed.

"In view of the difficulties Brian Ashton has had to deal with, avoiding last-minute injury problems has been a welcome boost and we'll working hard to ensure that that situation continues," says Counties XV manager Jim Robinson.

"We're all looking forward to a new challenge in Russia and excited about being the first senior England team to visit that country.

"We're expecting the opposition to be big and strong and physical, but believing that we may have an technical edge. But you never know.

"I understand our opening game at Krasnoyarsk in Siberia is against a team containing a large percentage of the Russian national side, so that will test our ability to gel as a team.

"We have a dozen or so players who have not been part of the Counties squad before and with only a couple of days to get organised, our coaches Dave Baldwin and Harvey Biljon will have their work cut out, especially when we are dealing with a lengthy journey and different time zones.

"Again we will be looking to stick to our philosophy of playing attractive, enterprising rugby.

"It's what the players want and, because of that, it's not difficult getting them to buy into the idea.

"We have another group of high-quality players and our coaches are very excited at the prospect of working with them."

Esher prop forward and captain Duncan Cormack will again lead the tourists having handled the job for the past three matches against Tunisia, Ireland Clubs and France Amateurs.

"Duncan has led the side superbly on and off the pitch and is a great example to any player in the community game," says Robinson.

"His behaviour as a leader and a player is excellent and he'll do a great job for us."

While 32-year-old Cormack is at the senior end of the age range, the squad also contains a handful of players at the fledgling stage of their careers.

At 19, Blackheath's Frankie Neale is the youngest player in the squad, with Hamish Smales, Arran Cruickshanks and Scott Rawlings, all 20, next in the pecking order ahead of Chris Pilgrim and Carl Rimmer, both 21.

England Counties squad - Backs: Oliver Viney (Lancashire & Preston Grasshoppers), Frankie Neale (Kent & Blackheath), Tom Jarvis (Gloucestershire & Lydney), Hamish Smales (Northumberland & Tynedale), Chris Malherbe (Yorkshire & Wharfedale), Aaran Cruickshank (Devon & Plymouth Albion), Mark Bedworth (Yorkshire & Wharfedale), Scott Rawlings (Staffordshire & Manchester), Mark Woodrow (Gloucestershire& Doncaster), Matthew Leek (Surrey & Esher), Paul Knight (Gloucestershire & Moseley), Chris Pilgrim (Cheshire & Loughborough University).

Forwards: Neil Spence (Yorkshire & Bradford & Bingley), Chris Rainbow (Hertfordshire & Newbury), Mike Blakeburn (Surrey & Esher), Chris Morgan ( Somerset & Newbury), Gregor Hayter (Oxfordshire & Newbury), James Winterbottom (Middlesex & Henley), David Campton (Warwickshire & Coventry), Alex Davidson (North Midlands & Pertemps Bees), James Tideswell (North Midlands & Stourbridge), Carl Rimmer (Warwickshire & Coventry), Tim Mathias (Devon & Plymouth Albion), Liam Wordley (Staffordshire & Henley), Glenn Cooper (Somerset & Newbury), Duncan Cormack (Surrey & Esher) captain.

Itinerary: Thursday, June 7 - Krasnoyarsk v England Counties XV Tuesday, June 12 - VVA-Podmoskovie (Champions Club) v England Counties XV Saturday, June 16 - Russia v England Counties XV