Fylde RFC put faith in experience for tough opener

Chris Briers
Chris Briers
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Fylde Rugby Club player-coach Paul Arnold has decided to plump for experience as his side faces up to an opening day challenge at home to Birmingham Moseley tomorrow.

He has decided against fielding the likes of Jack Harrison and James Bailey against such formidable opposition at the start of the National League One campaign.

Arnold has decided against giving a debut to England Counties Under-20 half-back Harrison at fly-half.

He explained: “Jack has done well in training for us and he is going to be a good number 10, but for this match we have gone for the experience of Chris Briers at fly-half.

“I am putting out my most experienced team against Birmingham Moseley.

“Nick Gray is not available, so I am putting myself in the team on Saturday to play alongside Jack Turley in the second row.

“I played 60 minutes the other week (against Sedgley Park) and I think I can bring my experience.”

Fylde will give starts to a couple of new signings – Turley and centre Scott Armstrong.

On the bench is back row forward Matt Lamprey, the Lancashire player who was recruited from Sedgley Park during the close season.

There is a chance Fylde could name another newcomer among their replacements in England Under-20 prop Jake Pope, who is on the books of Premiership club Sale Sharks.

He is one of half a dozen players from Sale that Fylde are planning to sign on dual registration deals for the 2016-17 season.

Fylde were hoping to complete the formalities prior to this weekend.

Arnold and Armstrong will be lining up against their old team and the player/coach said: “I had a feeling before the fixtures came out that somehow we would get them first and that’s how it has turned out to be.

“I had three very happy seasons there and I will be looking forward to meeting a lot of old friends afterwards.”

Arnold chalked up 84 appearances for the then Moseley club between 2006 and 2009.

Birmingham Moseley, coached by former Irish international Kevin Maggs, will be playing their first match since relegation from the Championship, in which they had played for a decade.

The rivalry between the two clubs goes back more than 50 years, though their paths have not crossed much in recent seasons.

Their last meeting was back in the 1998-99 campaign, when they were both in Allied Dunbar Premiership Two.

Armstrong was one of a number of players to quit the club following relegation and they have since recruited on a large scale, including some full-time players.

This is despite the fact that demotion to National League One means that, like Fylde, they do not qualify for direct funding from the Rugby Football Union.

Newcomers at Birmingham Moseley include props Matthew Probert (Scun-thorpe RFC) and James Elliot (ex-Rotherham Titans, Hull Ionians and Old Centralians), England Under-20 hooker Jake Farnworth (ex-Leicester Tigers) and fellow hooker Will Crane (Moseley Oak and North Midlands last season).

Also signed are Warwickshire county lock Aaron Crofts (ex-Coventrians) and another second row, England Counties’ George Oram (ex-Rotherham and Blackheath).

Back-rowers include Cardiff University’s Tom Wilson, Wales Under-20 international Sam Pailor (formerly Coventry, Newport Gwent Dragons, Doncaster and Bedford Blues), Portugal international number eight Jacques Le Roux (ex-Coventry) and England 7s, England Counties and Gloucestershire open-side flanker Jack Preece.

New backs include scrum-half Jonathan Lea (Birmingham University), fly-half Elliot Bale (Plymouth Albion and Leicester Tigers academy), wingers Charles Baffour (ex-Barking) and Mark Harrison (ex-Hartpury College and Gloucester Academy), Scottish international centre Alex Grove (over 150 appearances for Worcester Warriors) and centre/fly-half Sam Shepherd (ex-Bromsgrove, Hartpury College and Nottingham Trent University).

Fylde team (v Moseley, kick-off, 3pm): Dorrington; Bingham, Armstrong, Rawlings; Brennand; Briers, Nicholls; Lewis, Burtonwood, Griffiths, Arnold, Turley, Goodman, Stewart, Fairbrother. Replacements: Pope/Simpson, Maher, Lamprey, Vernon, Wilkinson. Reserve: Dowds.