Fylde RFC acting chairman's relief at County Championship reprieve
Fylde RFC’s acting chairman of rugby Mark Nelson is relieved to learn that rugby union’s County Championship will go ahead at the end of season, though he awaits the release of full details.
Nelson, who is Lancashire’s head coach, believes the competition is “pivotal” to the future of a sport that stands “almost on a precipice”.
Having conducted a review into this 132-year-old championship for semi-professional players, the Rugby Football Union has confirmed it will return for the first time in three years.
Fylde traditionally provide a core of players for the Lancashire squad, who have won the title a record 25 times and triumphed in seven of the 10 Twickenham finals from 2009-18.
Nelson told The Gazette: “The RFU have said there will be a County Championship but there are two key issues we don’t have answers to yet: one is funding and the other is the venue for the final. We’re assuming it will be the same format.
“There will be a competition and that is generally encouraging but the world is embroiled in politics, and until we see what the situation is, we won’t really know.”
For Nelson, it is vital that this showpiece for the game at National League level is not compromised.
He added: “If you look at the state of the game, which is almost on a precipice, it’s imperative that this competition goes ahead.
“There is so much focus on the Premiership and on England, but the rest of the game needs attention.
“Coming out of a pandemic, there are massive issues facing the game. We’ve seen sides thrown out of leagues for missing games and we’re still in early October.
“They have to understand that the focus must be on the wellbeing of the game as a whole.”
The wellbeing of Fylde is not in question after they won their opening four games in National Two North, losing for the first time away to favourites Rotherham last Saturday.
Nelson is happy to remain involved at the Woodlands after Steve Rigby becomes available to assume the rugby chairman’s mantle.
He added: “Steve and I met on Tuesday and I’ve said I’ll stay involved as long as they want to keep me. Hopefully Steve and I will be helpful to the group going forwards as we sing very much from the same hymn sheet.
“I’m just in a supporting role and have been watching how everybody has been going about it and the management has been first-rate.
“There’s a great feeling among the players, at first and second-team level, and they are really responding to (joint-head coaches) Chris Briers and Alex Loney.
“They want to play exciting and attacking rugby, and the start has been excellent. The result at Rotherham (28-13) would have been even closer but for two late tries.
“The feeling was that this was a potentially winnable game. There is no game now which the players feel they can’t perform in and can’t get a result from, and that’s down to the coaches.”
Just two points separate the top six, Fylde’s first defeat demoting them from first to fifth ahead of a home clash tomorrow (3pm) against Wharfedale, who won for the first time this season against Blaydon last weekend.
However, their former head coach believes it’s too early to read anything into the standings.
Nelson added: “I’ve been involved at this level of competition since 2007 and it takes seven or eight games before you start to see where everyone is at.
“Clubs like Chester and Huddersfield have made a rocky start but could come back very strongly. Fylde are up there challenging but we are still a long way from knowing how this league is going to turn out.”
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