MIKE Jackson, Wiltshire’s most capped men’s player with 131 Middleton Cup appearances, has taken over from Neil Smith as the county’s team manager for the competition.

The 51-year-old, who hails from Caldicot in Monmouthshire, began playing bowls in his native Wales in 1982.

He moved to Swindon in 1985 and joined Swindon Bowls Club to link up with his brother Arthur, who was a member of the Shrivenham Road club at the time before he moved on to Worcester.

Mike Jackson switched clubs to Westlecot in 1999 and has held numerous roles at the Old Town club and at county level ever since, including the important position for several years of national county championships co-ordinator.

Jackson said: “I am really looking forward to the challenge of Middleton Cup manager.

“Several of the regular players approached me when they knew Neil was not going to carry on.

“I thought about it and decided ‘yes’. I am quite excited about it.”

To assist him, Jackson has four selectors on board covering the four areas of Swindon, Chippenham, West Wiltshire and Salisbury, plus county junior team manager Adam Tanner.

Between them, they have chosen 39 players who have been invited to the first Middleton Cup trial at Royal Wootton Bassett on Sunday (9.45am).

From that, 32 players will be invited back for the second trial at Bassett on May 19.

Spencer Moulton’s Russell Francis is not named for the trials as he is recovering from injury but will certainly be in contention for a spot if fit to play.

The first trial is dominated by local players from host club Bassett, with 17 chosen to take part.

Next best are Westlecot with six, while Highworth and Swindon Town Gardens have one representative each.

Wiltshire have avoided their nemesis Devon in the group stages of this season’s inter-county championship.

Wiltshire men have been placed in the five-team west group section B alongside Somerset (June 1), Herefordshire (June 8), Worcestershire (June 15) and Cornwall (July 6).

In the last 10 seasons or so, Devon have halted Wiltshire’s progress in the inter-county championship in either the group stages or quarter-finals with one exception.

That was in 2012 when the Moonraker men went all the way to the final where they lost to Norfolk.

WILTSHIRE’s junior U25 men’s team have made a successful start to the new outdoor season.

After beating Somerset on all three rinks at Chippenham Town at the end of April, they followed it up with a successful defence of the Four Counties Bank Holiday Monday Tournament held every year against Somerset, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

This three-rink junior competition was held at Royal Wootton Bassett earlier this week.

Wiltshire won on all three rinks to retain the trophy with maximum points.

Leading the way was the foursome of James Richman (Westlecot), George Twine (Royal Wootton Bassett), Ben Choules (Westlecot) and skip Mike Titcombe (Westlecot). They were ahead throughout and managed a comfortable 25-8 win over Gloucestershire.

The other two rinks skipped by Adam Bolwell (Spencer Moulton) and Tom Newman (Avon) came from behind to beat Somerset 28-20 and Worcestershire 21-16 respectively.

Wiltshire junior men next play a three-rink fixture against Oxfordshire at Kidlington BC on Sunday.

WESTLECOT Bowls Club will be holding an outdoor Open Day today from 10am-3pm.

The Old Town club situated in Bowling Green Lane off Springfield Road, like all other bowls clubs at the start of a new season, are seeking to increase membership numbers.

If you are a former player or a newcomer wanting to try out a new sport, you will be made most welcome.

The only requirement is soft soled shoes. All other equipment and coaching will be provided.

Further details can be obtained by calling 01793 536036 or visiting www.westlecot.co.uk.