Fylde make their first ever visit to  Old Elthamians RFC‘s College Meadows ground in South East London on Saturday (ko 14.00). The two clubs with rather different histories met at the Woodlands in September and the visitors came away with a handsome 7-43 victory. OE’s 26 unanswered 2nd half points hammered the Lancastrians and they showed themselves to be a very strong, experienced squad. They have gone on from that day to an excellent series of performances which sees them comfortably placed in 7th in National One in their debut season at this level.  

OE have a fine home record this season, with five wins – Loughborough Students (36-20), Caldy (23-21), Rosslyn Park (34-27), Birmingham Moseley (47-17) & Blackheath (32-7) – and just two defeats, an early one v Bishop’s Stortford (13-19) and v outstanding league leaders Coventry (16-20). They will be bankers to extend this record against Fylde. Their best display away from College Meadows was probably at Plymouth Albion where they earned a very creditable 17-all draw.  

Old Elthamians is one of several clubs in London and the South East who have risen quickly through the RFU leagues, with no fewer than five promotions in nine seasons. Their gritty win at Sale FC last May in the National Two play-off game was exceptional. 

Old Elthamians RFC was established in 1913, six years earlier than Fylde, as an outlet for former students of Eltham College. The Club moved from their original pitch in Mottingham (SE London) to Chislehurst and, eventually, to College Meadow in Grove Park, South East London. Whilst building up to five adult teams in the 1950s, playing numbers diminished in the 1970s and the Club went ‘open’ in 1972. Adult numbers increased subsequently, as well as the establishment of what has become a very strong Mini-Junior Section. But it has been in the last decade in which the Club has moved rapidly up the leagues to their current level three status. The most famous of its junior alumni is the giant former England and Sale Sharks prop, Andrew Sheridan. 

The Director of Rugby who has been the architect of recent success is Gavin Lach. The Head Coach is Sam Howard and he is assisted by player-coach Ian Kench. Leading players in the squad include flying winger Dominic Lespierre (formerly Coventry, Broadstreet & Hull) who scored 34 tries in last season’s promotion campaign and 12 tries to date this season. Newcomers include former England 7s, Harlequins and Newcastle Falcons scrum-half Sam Egerton and Kiwi centre Kieran Moffat (ex-London Scottish, Otago & Southland) who has NPC experience where he became known as ‘the intercept king’ which he demonstrated at the Woodlands! Other prominent backs include centre Max Wilkins (ex-Old Albanian & Ampthill) and goal kicking half-back Joe Carlisle (ex-London Welsh, Benetton Treviso, Wasps & Worcester Warriors). 

The OE pack roster includes new prop Alex Rogers, who has Premiership experience with Newcastle Falcons and Harlequins, and fellow front rowers, hookers Nathan Morris (ex-London Welsh & Wasps) and Jay Rudland Thomas (ex-Loughborough & Richmond) and prop Stefan North (Richmond, Blackheath & Southend). Back five forwards include lock Adam Preocanin (ex-Ealing Trailfinders, London Scottish & Westcombe Park), George Messum (Loughborough Students & Chinnor) and Ian Kench (formerly Esher & Nottingham). 

The leading points scorer is halfback Tom White with 70 to date, and Dominic Lespierre and scrum-half Oliver Claxton head the tries ranking with 12 and 5 respectively.

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Fylde make five changes in their starting line-up for the trip to South East London. George Brookes returns to the right wing berth and, with injuries ruling out a number of players, four Sale Sharks dual registered players are drafted in. Hooker Curtis Langdon and lock Matt Postlethwaite have already worn the claret and gold hoops this season. Debuts are given to two other young talents – backrower Sam Moore and winger Paolo Odogwu. 

Sam Moore, who was named yesterday in the England U20 EPS Squad for 2017/18, joined the Sharks Academy in 2016 and has already made his 1st team debut, in the European Challenge Cup, LV Cup and the Premiership this season.  

Paolo Odogwu has represented England at U’18s and U’20s level and came through the Leicester Tigers Academy system. He joined the Sharks last season and subsequently made his debut in the Aviva Premiership. 

The full squad is: 

15 Tom Carleton; 14 George Brookes, 13 Connor Wilkinson, 12 Luke Fowden, 11 Paolo Odogwu; 10 Alex Dolly, 9 Greg Nicholls (c); 1 Dan Richardson, 2 Curtis Langdon, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Matt Postlethwaite, 5 Olli Parkinson, 6 Sam Moore, 7 Will Hopwood, 8 David Fairbrother.  

16 Mark Irving, 17 Tom Burtonwood, 18 Matt Garrod, 19 Ben Vernon, 20 Greg Smith.