Fylde welcome old friends and rivals and current National One 2nd placed Darlington Mowden Park to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 15.00) in the latest of a long line of fixtures between the two clubs. DMP have had a fine start to the season with nine wins and a draw in their 13 matches to date. They are rather trailing in the wake of outstanding leaders Coventry, 12 points in arrears, but will hope to press their promotion case in this game and those that follow. Fylde will be looking to build on the excellent win against another leading club, Bishop’s Stortford, last Saturday. Games between the two clubs have been high scoring affairs and Saturday’s contest is likely to be more of the same.

Mowden Park started with a run of five successive victories, at home against Loughborough Students (33-23) Cambridge (38-18) and Caldy (32-26), away at Ionians (15-27) and Birmingham Moseley (17-31). Further home wins followed – Old Elthamians (36-21), Plymouth (33-31), Rosslyn Park (36-7) and Ampthill (21-15). Their away form hasn’t been quite as convincing, losing at Old Albanian (33-31), Blackheath (39-24) and Esher (33-26), and drawing at Bishop’s Stortford (22-all).

Up until a year ago, DMP had had the Indian Sign over Fylde with some impressive wins, home and away. Last December Fylde had some revenge with a hard earned 31-25 victory at the Woodlands but were trounced 22-66 at DMP in April.

Our visitors are one of the most interesting clubs in National One and have taken over in the last couple of seasons from Fylde as the leading Northern club in the division. Their current momentum was energised by their ambitious purchase of, and move to, the 25,000 capacity Northern Echo Arena. Their average crowds of 820 this season are rather lost in this huge stadium but the facilities are excellent and visiting clubs appreciate the quality of the surroundings including the playing surface.

The move has paid dividends in that they have held a number of representative games at the Stadium and have big music concerts and other non-rugby events there. If they can make their business model work and sustain it, there’s little doubt that they will become a powerful Northern force with a real chance of reaching the level 2, the RFU Championship.

Their Director of Rugby is Danny Brown and he has assembled a very useful squad of players. The link with Newcastle Falcons is a strong one and a number of young players go to and fro between the clubs in competitive action. At least six players registered with DMP have appeared for the Falcons in recent weeks in ‘A’ games or Anglo-Welsh Cup ties.

Last season, the Club recruited a number of overseas players to their cause. Most of these have now moved on and there appears to be more emphasis on UK talent. New players this season include the Yorkshire County lock, and former Harrogate skipper, Jake Brady, accomplished scrum-half Matt Dudman (ex-Rotherham, Yorkshire Carnegie & Wharfedale), utility back Jack Blakeney-Edwards (ex-Otley) and prop Alfie Barron (ex-Hartpury).

One of their very promising youngsters is Lancashire-born prop forward Adam Brocklebank, a graduate of Myerscough College’s Academy. Another star of the future is the prodigiously quick wing Adam Radwan, who has already impressed with Newcastle Falcons and has scored a try per game in his 20 appearances for DMP last season and this. The excellent scrum-half Ruardidh Dawson is also on the Falcons books and has already featured in the Scotland U’20s squad.

More established backs include powerful centre Ben Frankland, who made over 100 appearances for Tynedale before moving south for last season, Scotland A & Barbarians centre/fly-half/fullback and goal kicker Garry Law (formerly Rotherham Titans, previously Border Reivers & Lazio) and brothers Grant and Brett Connon. The other influential playmaker and goal kicker is South African fly-half Warren Seals, formerly of Yorkshire Carnegie.

Important figures in the pack include powerful props Darren Fearn and Ralph Appleby, hooker Chris Wood, lock Joe Craggs, veteran Tongan international back five forward Talite Vaioleti (ex-Jersey & Wharfedale) and local players David Fisher, Rory Duff and Oliver Hodgson. Another influential backrower is current Canadian international Matt Heaton (ex-Otley).

The leading scorer this season is Warren Seals with 70 points, whilst Grant Connon heads the try scorers with 8, followed by flanker/hooker Simon Uzokwe and winger Shaun McCartney with 6.

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Fylde make three changes in their backline for the game. Chris Briers had surgery on his broken arm on Wednesday and is replaced by Luke Fowden. Alex Dolly retains the number 10 shirt after Greg Smith‘s injury last week, although the Liverpool-based player is named amongst the replacements. James Bailey was injured in training and is replaced by the returning Henry Hadfield. The pack is unchanged from last Saturday against Bishop’s Stortford. Tom Burtonwood and Nick Ashcroft are amongst the replacements, or as Eddie Jones refers to them, ‘the finishers’!

15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Connor Wilkinson, 12 Luke Fowden, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Alex Dolly, 9 Greg Nicholls; 1 Jake Pope, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Matt Garrod, 5 Olli Parkinson, 6 Harlan Corrie, 7 Will Hopwood, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Dan Richardson, 17 Tom Burtonwood, 18 Ben Vernon, 19 Nick Ashcroft, 20 Greg Smith.