League’s tougher than ever

Mark Nelson
Mark Nelson
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FYLDE RUFC coach Mark Nelson is under few illusions about the challenges facing his team this season.

Speaking on the eve of tomorrow’s meeting with Old Albanians at the Woodlands in National League One, Nelson said: “The league is stronger than it was last season.

“You only have to look at the quality of the players and the high standard of the London clubs, and then you have strong pockets in the North at places like Tynedale and Blaydon. “There are no weak links in this league.”

Fylde make a couple of changes to the team which lost at Wharfedale for tomorrow’s clash, both of them in the front row.

Danny Birchall and Tom Lavelle come in at prop, with Alastair Livesey and Pete Altham stepping down to the bench as part of the club’s rotation policy.

Flanker Ben Vernon will have a check on a heel injury sustained in Yorkshire last Saturday.

Nelson said: “That is the only concern. It was an impact injury on hard ground and I am confident he will be all right.”

It will be the first ever meeting between the two clubs but the players will be well

known to each other. Lancashire and Hertfordshire have met in the last two County Championship finals at Twickenham, both sides claiming a win apiece.

Fylde and Old Abanians players made up the bulk of the opposing sides.

Nelson said: “Both sides know each other through county rugby. It will be a difficult game for us and a lot of their play comes through their scrum-half Stefan Liebenberg,”

Fylde commenced the season with a morale-raising win over Esher but let slip a 17-3 half-time lead at Wharfedale.

Nelson said: “We spoke at length about the Wharfedale game and how we never really got going in the second half. We should have got more points in the first half, when we were in the ascendancy.”

Asked if he thought the lessons of the match had been learned, Nelson said: “I certainly hope that is the case and that the players are smarting as much as the coach, maybe even more so.”

Old Albanians have been a team on the rise over the past few years and have attained successive promotions

They opened their campaign with a defeat at Tynedale but then registered a 32-25 win over Richmond last Saturday.

Fylde: Spragg; Royle, C Briers, Barrow, Brennand; Johnson, De La Harpe; Birchall, Roddam, Lavelle, Banks, Arnold, Vernon, S Beaumont, Stewart. Replacements: Altham, Livesey, Taylor, Wallwork, Viney or S Briers. Kick-off 3pm.