Fylde RFC will be without in-form back-rower David Fairbrother for tomorrow’s visit to Hinckley and head coach Warren Spragg is looking forward to seeing Hal Chapman step into that number eight role.
The outstanding form of Fairbrother has been a key factor in Fylde’s unbeaten start to the National Two North season but work commitments will keep him out of action until next month.
Spragg told The Gazette: “David has been fantastic this season. He plays on the edge and has tended to give penalties away in the past for late or high shots. But this season he has got rid of all that and is just giving us the good stuff: unbelievable ball-carrying, offloading skills and a great character. We will miss him for the next few weeks but Hal will be great in that role.”
Fylde’s improved discipline has applied across the side this season, along with their ability to take full advantage of any indiscipline by their opponents.
That was evident in the 41-19 home win over Stourbridge last Saturday, when Fylde recovered from an early 14-0 deficit with 26 unanswered points while the visitors had a player in the sinbin – though Spragg felt the card could have been red for punching.
The head coach added: “Discipline has been much better. We have been giving away fewer penalties and not picking up silly cards, so we are in a position to make the most of yellow cards for our opponents.
“Saturday’s game taught us things about ourselves in that we have traditionally got off to good starts this season, but this time we showed a lot of character to come back from behind.
“Stourbridge hadn’t really tested us much but they scored from two breakaways and we responded really well.”
Matt Garrod is again a doubt, though Fylde have few other injury concerns and plenty of pack options: Jacob Conner looks set to slot into the number six role as Chapman switches to eight.
Fylde have taken maximum points on the road this season as they head to Leicestershire to face a Hinckley side, who have lost their last two matches but ran third-placed Sedgley Park close when they met last weekend.
“They are probably a similar side to Stourbridge in that they want to beat you through the middle,” added Spragg, “though Hinckley probably have slightly better control. We expect to be tested and are really looking forward to it.”
Second-placed Fylde are one point behind Caldy, who they next face on their travels in a fortnight, and the Wirral club’s 100 per cent start after relegation from National One is no surprise to Spragg.
He said: “They are a really strong team, who have not put a foot wrong so far and I always expected them to be right up there.
“They are excellent in the set-piece, they defend well and have real quality.
“And I think any team that finishes about them will win this league.”