Lancashire had an excellent start to their 2018 County Championship campaign when they had an overwhelming 20-64 victory over Northumberland at Percy Park RFC last Saturday. Their build up to the defence of their Bill Beaumont Cup which they won a year ago at Twickenham by beating Cornwall has been anything but straightforward. Numerous Sedgley Tigers players were unavailable for selection due to their National Two play-off game at Chinnor.
This week they’ll be missing their Sale FC contingent due to an outstanding N2N fixture at Luctonians. Although Sale have already been crowned champions of the division and promoted to National One next season, Luctonians are in a desperate relegation battle. If the Herefordshire club lose at home to Sale they drop a division in 2018-19 but if they win with a bonus point then they survive and Wharfedale go down to level 5.
Eight Sale players featured for the Red Rose county v Northumberland and they are all out of contention for the home game against Eastern Counties to be held at Sedgley Park’s ground on Saturday. Six Sedgley players are called up to the 22 man squad, in effect, to replace them. Another obstacle has been the unavailability of North U’20s players such as Tom Carleton, Nick Ashcroft, Ben Gregory and Sam Stott who are involved in England Counties trials this weekend.
The seven changes to the starting line-up does not make for continuity and Head Coach Mark Nelson isn’t happy about this state of affairs. Whilst all 22 players are quality performers, the fact remains that 12 of them have been playing at levels five and six in the RFU league hierarchy this season. This compares with an Eastern Counties squad dominated by Cambridge players from National One level. Nelson has no doubts that his squad will give EC a very tough game but building consistency and coherence at short notice amongst a squad drawn from seven clubs is a real challenge.
Into the starting line up comes Fylde centre Connor Wilkinson, Sedgley winger Jamie Harrison and his halfback team mates Steve Collins and Callum McShane, Hoppers’ forwards Peter Altham and Matt Lamprey, and Sedgley lock Bob Birtwell. Fylde’s Adam Lewis retains the captaincy.
Called up to the replacements bench is ‘Hoppers Oga Mabaya, Sedgley’s two former Fylde players, Danny Maher and Mark Goodman, and another Fylde player from last season, winger Scott Armstrong, now with Kirkby Lonsdale, who had such an excellent game in last year’s Twickenham Final.
15 Lewis Allen (Rossendale); 14 Jordan Dorrington (Vale of Lune), 13 Connor Wilkinson (Fylde), 12 Scott Rawlings (Longton), 11 Jamie Harrison (Sedgley Tigers); 10 Steve Collins (Sedgley Tigers), 9 Callum McShane (Sedgley Tigers); 1 Adam Lewis (Fylde), 2 Alex Loney (Fylde), 3 Peter Altham (Preston G), 4 Reece Tomlinson (Rossendale), 5 Bob Birtwell (Sedgley Tigers), 6 Evan Stewart (Vale of Lune), 7 Phil Mills (Rossendale), 8 Matt Lamprey (Preston G).
16 Oga Mabaya (Preston G), 17 Alastair Murray (Preston G), 18 Danny Maher (Sedgley Tigers), 19 Mark Goodman (Sedgley Tigers), 20 Tom Burtonwood (Fylde), 21 Scott Armstrong (Kirkby Lonsdale), 22 Scott Jordan (Preston G).