Fylde & 'Dale name squads for Roses clash

After a week off due to a waterlogged Woodlands pitch last Saturday, Fylde travel to the most beautiful location in National One when they visit old friends & Roses rivals Wharfedale on Saturday (ko 2pm). They face the tough Yorkshire squad in 14th place in the division at a Threshfield ground which has often proved an unproductive venue for the Lancastrians. The festive atmosphere generated at this small ground by a passionate home crowd is unique, especially if prefaced by the introduction on the public address system by the legendary Ian 'Adge' Douglas. A good number of Fylde supporters will be travelling too so the Roses banter will no doubt flow - the Lancastrians will need every bit of encouragement if they are to get anything out of the game. 
The Greens have had a difficult early season and, up until last Saturday, they had lost seven successive games. But the 'Dale don't cave in easily, witness their fantastic 20 seasons in National One, and back they came with a very important 16-15 win at Hull Ionians on Saturday. Their biggest win so far was also away from The Avenue when they thumped Blaydon at Crow Trees by 43-13. Their home performances have been fragile, with significant losses against Esher (26-46), Ampthill (12-29) & Hartpury College (0-45), and narrow defeats against Cinderford (27-33) & Plymouth Albion (9-12). In a typically unpredictable fashion, they have performed rather well against some of the stronger teams before going down narrowly at Blackheath (24-27) and Rosslyn Park (15-26). Some of this inconsistency has no doubt been due to a long injury list which has led to 40 players being called on to date.
However, with a number of players back in action, they will be breathing fire against Fylde and the visitors had better prepare themselves for a very hard and physical contest. From a Fylde point of view, let's hope that the famous yell of the Greens crowd (and Adge), 'River!', as the home pack drive scrummages and mauls downhill towards the try line and the River Wharfe, isn't heard too often!
Overall, Fylde have had the upper hand in fixtures between the two clubs in the past 30 years, winning thirteen and losing five fixtures, with one draw last March. In fact, the Greens haven't won at the Woodlands in ten attempts whilst the Lancastrians have also struggled at 'Fortress Threshfield' losing five out of nine games.
1995-6 Fylde 54 18 Wharfedale          
1996-7 Fylde 39 18 Wharfedale   Wharfedale 13 19 Fylde
1999/00 Fylde 10 7 Wharfedale   Wharfedale 23 3 Fylde
2000/1 Fylde 29 8 Wharfedale   Wharfedale 72 10 Fylde
2001/2 Fylde 17 13 Wharfedale   Wharfedale 21 27 Fylde
2002/3 Fylde 25 20 Wharfedale   Wharfedale 19 18 Fylde
2011/12 Fylde 39 12 Wharfedale   Wharfedale 16 10 Fylde
2012/13 Fylde 25 21 Wharfedale   Wharfedale 21 17 Fylde
2013/14 Fylde 34 21 Wharfedale   Wharfedale 26 36 Fylde
2014/15 Fylde 35 3 Wharfedale   Wharfedale 24 24 Fylde
Wharfedale was founded in 1923 but spent the early years with a somewhat restricted fixture list and found it hard to organise matches against bigger clubs. In the early 1990s they climbed the embryonic RFU league hierarchy and had to be taken seriously as an ambitious senior club. Since then, they have proved to be an extraordinarily successful outfit with what is unanimously agreed in the rugby community as most beautifully located ground in England.
The unique characteristics, history and personalities of the Club are described very well in the highly readable "Riverball!: a rugby fairy tale" by Simon Ravens, VSP, 2015. Apart from weaving an affectionate portrait of the Club told alongside an account of the Club's 2014/15 season, Ravens wonderfully places it at the heart of a Dales farming community. Maybe 20 years of National One status for such a small club is 'a fairy tale' but they will fight to the death to maintain this achievement.
Not only have they traditionally relied on local players for the backbone of their side but the Club has achieved incredible stability at 1st XV level, far more than any other National League club. The Avenue tends to be the favourite away venue for the spectators of every other club in the division. The Club has always been competitive and welcoming to visiting teams and supporters. Not for them the boom and bust, rise and fall, which so many other clubs, including Fylde, have experienced since the birth of professionalism.
Up until the last few seasons, the Greens achieved admirable consistency in terms of league position, with a highest of 5th in 2005-6 and a low of 9th in 2008-9. The last four seasons have been a little different, however, when they have finished in 10th, 13th, 10th & 11th. 
The Greens' have a new Head Coach this season, Tom McGee, in his second spell in this role and he strengthened the squad with judicious summer recruitment. Front rowers who have featured in the Greens tradionally strong pack are props Matt Beesley, Joe Altham (brother of former 'Dale & Fylde prop Peter Altham) and newcomers Alistair Wade (ex-Camberley) and Ricardo Cano (ex-Chinnor & Hartpury College) along with veteran Yorkshire County star Chris Steel. Hooking duties have mainly been shared by Ian Larkin, Dan Stockdale & Steve Graham.
Back five regulars have been excellent young skipper Josh Burridge, newcomer George Hedgley (formerly with DMP), lock Simon Willett, Alex Powell & Chris Howick. The mainstay of the pack is former Yorkshire & England Counties powerful, ball carrying no 8 Rob Baldwin. He joined the Greens in 2003/4, became a first choice the following season and has been a regular ever since bar brief spells at Otley and Yorkshire Carnegie. When he's missed games through injury or unavailability, 'Dale have often struggled. The inspirational 'Badger' tore ligaments early last season and missed the great majority of the campaign. He's been back in action this season and is an immensely reassuring sight in the backrow. 
Two other very influential Wharfedale players have been missing in this campaign. Scrum-half James Doherty, the former Fleetwood star who spent a long period at Threshfield before going full time at Cornish Pirates for three seasons, returned to the North with Yorkshire Carnegie and then back to The Avenue for the 2014/5 season. Sadly, he suffered serious concussion at the end of last season and has only played occasionally this season. Also missing with the latest in a string of major injuries has been mecurial flanker Dan Solami.
Although the formidable Greens pack will pose the major threat to Fylde, their backline is also dangerous. Re-inforced with some quality newcomers - former England U18s Clubs and Schools cap & Yorkshire U'20s centre Oliver Fewtrell (ex-Macclesfield & Derby), winger/fullback Maxime Labasse (ex-U.S.Norlaas, France) and winger Dan Tai (a dual registration from Leeds Carnegie) - have already made their mark. Doherty's no 9 shirt has just been taken up by another player who has missed many games through injury, Philip Woodhead. Fly-half and main goal kicker is the former Blaydon player, James Guy. A classy centre partnership has formed between young talents, Yorkshire & England Counties U'20s Cameron Hudson and Huw Morgan. Maxime Labasse, Matt van Sertima and Dan Tai make up a very quick back three.
The Greens squad is:
15 Max Labasse; 14 Matt Van Sertima, 13 Cameron Hudson, 12 Huw Morgan, 11 Oliver Fewtrell; 10 Jamie Guy, 9 Philip Woodhead; 1 Matt Beesley, 2 Steve Graham, 3 Ali Wade, 4 George Hedgley, 5 Simon Willet, 6 Alex Powell, 7 Josh Burridge (capt), 8 Rob Baldwin. Replacements (from): 16 Riccardo Cano, 17 Dan Stockdale, 18 Dan Solomi, 19 Will Bell, 20 Dan Tai.
Fylde make two changes in their starting line-up from that which didn't get on the sodden Woodlands pitch last Saturday. The coaches have gone for experience with the recall of scrum-half Greg Nicholls and hooker Alex Loney. Both have serious Championship experience at clubs such as Bristol, London Welsh & Plymouth Albion (Nicholls) and Nottingham & Rotherham Titans (Loney).  
15 Jordan Dorrington; 14 Anthony Bingham, 13 Chris Briers (c), 12 Scott Rawlings, 11 Oli Brennand; 10 Chris Johnson, 9 Greg Nicholls; 1 Dan Birchall, 2 Alex Loney, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Nick Gray, 5 Gareth Rawlings, 6 Mark Goodman, 7 Evan Stewart, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Tom Lavelle, 17 Phill Mills, 18 Dominic Moon, 19 Ryan De La Harpe, 20 Warren Spragg.
Chris Johnson makes his 100th appearance for the Club along with Jordan Dorrington's 50th cap.



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