Fylde face one of their toughest National One challenges on the road when they travel to Dillingham Park, home of 5th placed Ampthill. They will be hoping to build on their win against Rosslyn Park last Saturday. The two clubs have only played each other on four occasions, with the Bedfordshire team winning both home games (25-21 & 43-24) and one at the Woodlands (19-29). Fylde edged the game at the Woodlands last season with a tense 13-11 victory thanks to a last minute penalty by Greg Smith.
Ampthill have had a successful start to this season, with three victories – home to Old Albanian (28-24) and Esher (45-5) and at Bishop’s Stortford (22-41) – a 21-all draw on the opening day of the season at Birmingham Moseley and one defeat at another promotion contender, Blackheath, by 16-15.
Ampthill, or to give the club its full name, Ampthill & District, have risen extraordinarily quickly through the RFU league hierarchy, one of the many new ‘meritocrats’ in London, the South East and South Midlands regions. They were promoted to National One three seasons ago and settled in immediately, finishing 4th in 2015/6 and 3rd last season. Although much of this success has been built on a dominating pack, they also have very dangerous backs who can do much damage.
The Bedfordshire club is coached by legendary former Welsh international fly-half Paul Turner, formerly a coach at Sale, Gloucester, Saracens, Rugby Lions, Harlequins, Wasps and Newport Gwent Dragons. With extensive corporate backing, Turner has again recruited strongly for this season.
New players this season include prop Karl Garside (ex-Old Albanian), England Counties skipper and No 8 Billy Johnson (ex-Old Albanian & Bedford Blues), half backs Stef Liebenberg (ex-Cambridge, Bedford Blues & Old Albanian) & Lawrence Rayner (ex-Old Albanian, Plymouth Albion & Nottingham), centre Sam Sterling (Bury St Edmunds), hooker Josh Taylor (Old Albanian) & back row Simon Pitfield (ex-Loughborough Students & Birmingham Solihull).
Other summer recruits include prop Toby Trinder (dual registered from Northampton Saints), Wales U’20s backrower Syd Blackmore, Canadian international stalwart full back and goal kicker James Pritchard (ex-Bedford Blues Coventry) and replacement prop Jack Culverhouse (Bedford Blues).
Ampthill have been known in recent seasons for a group of fine Tongan internationals. A couple remain in the current squad, the legendary hooker or prop Aleki Lutui and lock Paino Hehea. Top try scorer last season was the very dangerous wing Sam Baker who notched twenty.
Both match squads are much changed from those that faced each other at the Woodlands a year ago, with just seven Fylde players and four from Ampthill named in the 40.
15 James Pritchard; 14 Ali Crossdale, 13 Sam Hanks, 12 Karim Lynch, 11 Sam Baker; 10 Josh Sharp, 9 Kevin Barratt; 1 Toby Trinder, 2 Josh Taylor, 3 Aleki Lutui, 4 Carl Burgess, 5 Alex Woodford, 6 Billy Johnson, 7 Joe Bercis, 8 Chris West.
16 Scott Wright, 17 Karl Garside, 18 Matt Dawson, 19 Stef Liebenburg, 20 Lawrence Rayner.
Fylde make four changes in their starting line-up compared with that against Rosslyn Park last Saturday. George Brookes comes in at inside centre and, amongst the pack, Ben Vernon and David Fairbrother return. Olli Parkinson, injured in the early minutes of the pre-season game at Sedgley Tigers, makes his 1st team debut at lock. On the bench, Karl Capstick and Jake Foster step up from the Hawks.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Chris Briers, 12 George Brookes, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Alex Dolly; 1 Jake Pope, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis (c), 4 Nick Ashcroft, 5 Olli Parkinson, 6 Ben Vernon, 7 Adam McCarthy, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Mark Irving, 17 Tom Burtonwood, 18 Karl Capstick, 19 Toby Harrison, 20 Jake Foster.