CORNISH All Blacks skipper Ben Hilton admitted he had "massively enjoyed the experience" of playing for England Counties in their two winter fixtures, despite them both ending in agonising one-point defeats.
The 16-15 loss to a French Federale XV in Nevers in late January was followed up by a 23-22 defeat to an Ireland Clubs XV in another cliffhanger at Darlington Mowden Park's Northern Echo Arena last Friday.
Hilton played the full 80 minutes in both games, and the 30-year-old, who teaches at St Petroc's School in Bude, said: "The last two games have been great to have played in and I hope I am lucky enough to be involved in the Counties' summer tour because it makes everything else worth it.
"You are playing with some class players, and the step-up in intensity is incredible.
"Matches against Romania and Georgia are rumoured to be on the cards, but that would be incredibly tough if those two countries played their full sides as a lot of their players are full-time professionals."
Last month a late penalty dashed the Counties' hopes against a France Federale XV in Nevers, and last Friday it was a last-gasp penalty from Irish fly half David Joyce that clinched the win and disappointed the majority of a 4,800 crowd.
"It was a massively physical game," said Hilton, who captained Cornwall last season. "They kept coming around the corner at us and some great hits were going in from us, and I was certainly aching the day after the game.
"It is just so frustrating. The building blocks are there for a ridiculously class team, but we just need a little bit more time together.
"Ultimately we have eight training sessions in total to play two internationals. People make the odd mistake here and there, and it is a one out of ten mistake if you are in a regular team, but people try and force things and are still trying to learn each other's lines and stuff like that.
"It was team manager Mike Old's last match involved with the Counties and we were desperate to try and get him a win, but sadly it wasn't to be."
The Counties outscored the visitors 3-1 on tries with an early penalty try followed by one from wing Jim Wigglesworth before the break, and a well-worked third for Cinderford's former Gloucester centre Jack Adams in the second half.
But the Counties were heavily punished by Scottish referee Graeme Wells at the breakdown and Joyce picked off the penalties, landing six in all.
Centre Mark Roche also scored an opportunist second-half try for the Irish after the Counties turned over possession as they attempted to attack from their own half.
Former Cornish Pirates scrum half Richard Bolt, who recently joined Plymouth Albion from Exmouth, came off the replacements' bench for the Counties team.