Fylde visit Leicester Lions on Saturday (ko 14.00) with a history of rather struggling at their Blaby ground. In six games at the Lions, Fylde have been defeated in four including a 35-3 hammering in October 2009. In 12 matches between the clubs in the period 2005-6 to 2010-11, Fylde shade the bragging rights with 6 victories and a draw.
The Lions have been a very stable presence in National Two (North) and are in their 14th successive season in the division. They have been up and down in the table over this period, finishing 11th last season but successive 3rd places in the two previous campaigns. They have proved a tough and durable force over this period and despite their 0/3 record to date this season, they’ll prove very formidable opposition for the Lancastrians.
Fylde’s away form has been disappointing in recent seasons and they managed only a single victory away from the Woodlands last season in National One. The Lions will be buoyed by their new clubhouse, officially opened two weeks ago by one of their former players, legendary former Leicester Tigers England lock and Head Coach Martin Johnson. It’s to be hoped that the splendid new facilities will encourage more spectators at TMDP Park.
Fylde will be encouraged by their two home performances in the early weeks of the season and will travel with confidence that they can improve their record in Blaby. With the best defensive record in N2N to date, Fylde will hope to launch their dangerous backline against the Lions.
The Lions have had a very difficult series of fixtures to start this campaign. They opened with a 42-25 defeat at Stourbridge, lost agonisingly at home to local rivals South Leicester (21-24) and then at promotion chasing Chester (24-12) last Saturday.
Under long established head coach Andy Key, the Lions decided in the summer that they needed to strengthen their pack for this season. So they recruited prop Demetrius Gonsalves (Rugby Lions) and back five forwards Tom Nutley (ex-Cambridge & Ampthill), Ed Sumpter (Market Harborough) and Ethan Godefroy (Market Harborough).
In their backline, a principal danger is winger Devon Constant who in four seasons at the Club has scored 67 tries in just 105 appearances.
Fylde make three changes in their starting line-up for the trip. The injury to scrum-half Cameron Crampton against Macclesfield rules him out. Tom Carleton moves from fullback to 9, Connor Wilkinson to 15 to replace him and Luke Fowden comes in at centre. In the pack, Harlan Corrie and Ben O’Ryan return to the backrow.
Injuries to Nick Ashcroft, Ben Vernon, Ralph Dowds, Toby Harrison and Crampton, and the unavailability of Sam Dugdale are testing the depth of the squad. Two 1st XV debutants, prop Matthew Ashcroft (Nick’s younger brother) and scrum-half Adam Lanigan, are named amongst the replacements.
15 Connor Wilkinson; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Chris Briers, 12 Luke Fowden, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Tom Carleton; 1 Elliot Horner, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Olli Parkinson, 5 Matt Garrod, 6 Harlan Corrie, 7 Ben O’Ryan, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Adam Joyner, 17 Tom Burtonwood, 18 Matthew Ashcroft, 19 Adam Lanigan, 20 Lewis Pattison
[Photo above: Mike Waywell scores for Fylde against Leicester Lions at the Woodlands in the 2010/11 season.]