FYLDE RFC front rower forward Dan Birchall insists that the team have the capacity to give Blackheath plenty to think about when the side travel down to London for a National League One clash tomorrow.
Fylde suffered an 11-9 home reverse at the hands of Loughborough Students in their latest encounter, though the ‘damage’ of that surprise reverse was restricted - the point they picked up from that defeat actually moved them one place up the table to sixth.
Birchall, who joined Fylde in the close season from Sedgley Park, said: “Everyone was disappointed that we didn’t put a few away against Loughborough, which we certainly should have done and have done in previous games,
“Out of all the sides we have faced so far, Loughborough’s scramble defence in getting back is the best we have faced all year - but I am sure we will bounce back.
“Blackheath is never an easy place to go, but they have not had the best of seasons, certainly not the season that people were expecting.
“Before the season started, you would have taken them to be well up there, perhaps even challenging to be promoted to the Championship.
“That’s not happened - they have had a stutter, so they will have vulnerability, which we can exploit.”
Birchall is only 24, but he has packed in plenty of experience already.
As well as a spell with Sedgley Park, Birchall has also played for Sale Sharks and Manchester - the former Lancaster Royal Grammar School student also travelled to New Zealand to broaden his rugby experience with a spell playing at Christchurch - in addition, he is a member of the successful Lancashire squad.
Birchall has welcomed the change of approach and emphasis at Fylde since his switch from Sedgley Park, though it took time to adapt.
He said: “It’s been a bit of culture change for me after moving clubs - things were ingrained and I have had to have a change of mind-set about things.
“It’s not so much a culture shock - it’s an opposite way of playing compared to my previous club.
“Everything here is about moving the ball around - possession is nine tenths of the law, whereas before it was much more about territory and putting pressure on.
“Now it’s almost polar-opposite. I have found it a lot easier playing the game while we have the ball.
“It’s much more enjoyable playing with ball in hand and to be in more control of the game.
“It’s definitely been the right move for me.”
Like the rest of the Fylde squad, Birchall is having to deal with the rigours and intensity of life in the third tier of English rugby and its exacting, physical toll, week-in, week-out.
He admitted: “It’s hard going - and as (coach) Mark Nelson has told us we can’t afford to have an off-week because every side in the league has that potential to turn you over, so you have to be on top of your game every week.”
Birchall added that the squad had not discussed any specific targets.
The Fylde prop asserted: “We still have our best to come in the second half of the season, and I have no doubt we will be much more successful than the first, but we will see what happens.”