[Photo: courtesy of Hinckley RUFC]
Fylde face their toughest test so far this season when they travel to early National Two (North) promotion hopefuls Hinckley for the first ever league game between the two clubs. Hinckley is situated 15 miles north of Leicester and the town’s club has gradually worked itself into becoming a major force in Midlands rugby. They opened this season with six straight wins before slipping up at Chester last Saturday. They will pose a formidable challenge to Fylde who will have to improve their away form to have a chance of victory.
‘The Hornets’ began with home victories against Tynedale (45-31), Wharfedale (33-24), current leaders Hull Ionians (35-24) and local rivals South Leicester (42-17). Away wins at Peterborough Lions (21-48) and Stourbridge (24-33) amply demonstrated their pedigree before the setback at Chester (19-0).
Once again facing new opposition, we find a club with a longer history than Fylde, having been founded in 1893. Their distinguished alumni include the last dual cricket and rugby international, M J K Smith, and the England & British Lions legend, Dean Richards. After playing in the Midlands divisions for most of the last 25 years, they broke through to the National Leagues in 2010 but quickly dropped back to the Midlands Premier (level 5). A sustained improvement campaign eventually lifted them back to National Two (North) in 2016-17 and they have a taken an upward path, finishing in 9th in their first season and then up to 5th in 2017-18.
Their Director of Rugby is the very well known former England international and Leicester Tigers hooker, George Chuter, who was appointed for the 2017-18 season, assisted by coaches Phil Llewellyn & Emyr Lewis.
Their squad, like most clubs in the National Leagues, is a mixture of local talent who have developed at the Club and players who have joined more recently. Their leading scorer is accomplished, goal kicking fullback Joe Wilson who ran up 237 points last season and is already the leading scorer in N2N this season with 92 points to date.
Their strong pack is led by powerful 1st XV skipper and no 8, Alex Salt and features props Stephen Harvey, Dave Peck and Oscar Harper. The forwards roster was strengthened in the summer by the recruitment of lock James Moreton (ex-Broadstreet) and hooker Josh Greatrix (formerly at Hartpury College, Leeds Beckett University, Yorkshire Carnegie and Moseley). Backrowers include free scoring flanker Gareth Turner (ex-Coventry & South Leicester) and openside Henry Povoas (ex-Bath University).
A top newcomer in the backs is centre Ryan Hough who has extensive experience in the Championship with Nottingham, then Coventry and South Leicester, as well as a spell in Australia. He is a very dangerous runner who already has five tries to his name in six appearances. Playmaker is experienced fly-half Tom Wheatcroft, formerly of Cambridge, Ealing Trailfinders & Coventry.
The most famous member of their backline is former All Black, Crusaders and Leicester Tigers fullback/wing, Scott Hamilton. He joined Hinckley in the 2016-17 season after a spell coaching and playing for Coventry in National One following his departure from the Tigers.
Fylde make three changes in their starting line-up. In the front row, Adam Joyner starts at tighthead and player-coach Alex Loney is at hooker.
After training with the squad on frequent occasions, Sale Sharks scrum-half Gus Warr (19) makes his National League debut on a dual registration basis. When the Sharks first choice no 9, Faf de Klerk, was playing for South Africa in the Rugby Championship, Warr was called up to the Sharks Premiership cause making three appearances from the bench. He was educated at Dollar Academy in Scotland and has represented Scotland U’18s and skippered the Scotland U’20s Development squad.
Warren Spragg said: “It’s good that Gus is finally available! He’s had a great start to the season at Sharks and been involved loads in the early part of the season. Cam Crampton was really good last week coming back from injury and we need to look after him throughout a long season, so it’s a good opportunity for Gus to get a National league start. I’m sure he’ll have a positive influence on the rest of the lads.”
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Chris Briers (c), 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Gus Warr; 1 Elliot Horner, 2 Alex Loney, 3 Adam Joyner, 4 Matt Garrod, 5 Olli Parkinson, 6 Harlan Corrie, 7 Ben O’Ryan, 8 Sam Dugdale.
16 Cal Ford, 17 Ben Gregory, 18 Nick Ashcroft, 19 Cameron Crampton, 20 Luke Fowden.