Fylde at leaders Caldy: latest team news from both camps
Fylde face their toughest game of the season to date when on Saturday they travel to Paton Field (ko 14.15), in the West Kirby district of the Wirral, to take on a buoyant Caldy squad which sits proudly on top of National Three (North). This is a very important match, especially for Fylde who are already seven points behind the home side. Following the loss at Macclesfield and the home draw against Kendal, another defeat would raise major doubts about Fylde's promotion credentials.
Founded five years after Fylde in 1924, the two clubs have played each other at various levels over the years but never in league competition before last season. Fylde edged home with a 11-9 win at the Woodlands in September thanks to a late penalty by Mark Edwards. Caldy won the return fixture with a greater degree of comfort, by 22-7 at Paton Field. In 1997/8 there were six levels difference between the two clubs. But whilst Fylde have fallen two divisions since then, Caldy achieved three promotions in the past six seasons. By finishing as outstanding champions of North One in 2006/7 they achieved national league status for the first time as well as reaching the semi-final of the National Intermediate Cup at Twickenham.
Caldy had a sound first season in 2007/8 and finished in 5th place in the division behind Fylde who were 3rd. The Club recruited wisely in the summer with a number of experienced players moving to Paton Field. This has paid off as they have won seven of their eight league games to date, and will be looking for the seventh successive victory on Saturday. Caldy's rugby management is led by Director of Rugby Anthony Atherton and he is assisted by Head Coach Matt Holt.
Caldy is a particularly interesting club because it has built some of its success on the back of one of the best organised youth development systems in the North West. Whilst the majority of their squad have been imported from other clubs, there is a generous representation in the 1st team squad of young players who have come through the Mini-Junior & Colts system. The Club makes much of its pioneering work as one of the first clubs in the North to achieve the RFU's advanced 'Seal of Approval' status.
Caldy established an Academy system in 2006 and whilst this is rather different to the model that Fylde has adopted with its Centre for Rugby Excellence then it has attracted young players to the club and assisted in their development.
Influential imports include the outstanding former New Brighton, Orrell & Cheshire lock Richard Bradshaw, ex-Waterloo back five player Paul White (Caldy's 2006/7 player of the season), hooker Neil Dowridge (Doncaster), former New Brighton back five player & Cheshire County skipper Jon Sewell and ex-Waterloo scrum-half John Broxson. They also benefitted by the mass departure of players from West Park by attracting massive prop Ian Critchley, lock Dave Westhead, winger or fullback Mark Turner and goal kicking centre or winger Andrew Soutar to the Club.
Local products in a very big and strong pack include flankers Jake Lyon, who had a spell at Waterloo, and the outstanding no 8 and vice-captain Sam Dickinson.
Amongst the backs, skipper Sean Woof returned to his home club following successful seasons away playing national league rugby at Waterloo, Worcester, Leeds, Birmingham & Sedgley Park. Their principal and very reliable goal kicker is young centre Gavin Roberts who has notched 68 league points to date.
Caldy's squad for the game is:
15 Mark Turner; 14 Andrew Soutar, 13 Gavin Roberts, 12 Sean Woof, 11 Ian Murray; 10 Ben Macpherson, 9 John Broxson; 1 Gavin Woods, 2 Neil Dowridge, 3 Ian Critchley, 4 Paul White, 5 Richard Bradshaw, 6 Jake Lyon, 7 Jon Sewell, 8 Sam Dickinson. Replacements: 16 Derek Salisbury, 17 Oliver Cooper, 18 Dave Westhead, 19 David Mercer, 20 Chris Buck.
Fylde's pack will have to step up the efforts they showed against Kendal or otherwise they will be steamrollered by the big Caldy eight. This is especially true as the Woodlands club have lost powerful lock Nick King who suffered a broken arm on Saturday. Caldy have some fine ball carrying forwards and Fylde will need to be very sharp at the tackle breakdown if they are to get sufficient possession for their creative halfbacks to launch a dangerous, free scoring backline.
Fylde make four changes to their starting line-up. Mike Waywell and Tom Albinson return at fullback and outside centre respectively. Newcomer Oliver Atkinson replaces the injured Nick King at lock and Alan Holmes returns at hooker.
15 Mike Waywell; 14 Jordan Davies, 13 Tom Albinson, 12 David Wiseman, 11 Oliver Brennand; 10 Steve Nutt, 9 Craig Aikman; 1 Sam Simpson, 2 Alan Holmes, 3 Darren Clark, 4 Oliver Atkinson, 5 Roger Banks (c), 6 Dan Bowman, 7 Dan Palmer, 8 Sam Beaumont. Replacements: 16 Andrew Irving, 17 Chris Tyms, 18 Grant Ferguson, 19 Mark Stephenson, 20 Martin Wallwork.
Fylde will look to match winning fly-half Steve Nutt (pictured below in action against Kendal last Saturday) to orchestrate Fylde's challenge. Not only is Nutt the 2nd top points scorer in N3N with 93 points already this season but he has proved to be the crucial difference in the 14 appearances he has made since moving from National One Sedgley Tigers last season, only two of which have been defeats for the Woodlands club. Lancashire County's top player of their 2008 championship campaign is a very creative playmaker who has mesmeric footwork and is a fine distributor of the ball. Fylde will need all his influence if they are seriously to challenge Caldy on Saturday.