Fylde RFC coach relishes long-awaited return to match action this month.
The Fylde RFC senior squad are training well and looking forward to their first games in over 14 months.
The Woodlands club resumed training as restrictions began to ease at the end of March and friendlies against Blackburn RUFC are scheduled for the final two Saturdays of this month.
Training has been increased to two sessions per week ahead of the games and joint head coach Alex Loney says the players are fit and eager to play.
He told The Gazette: “Yes, we’re looking forward to the games. They really came out of the conversations we had with the players.
“We wanted to see where their heads were at and they were unanimous that they wanted to play, so we got things together from the club side and very happy with the plans.
“Blackburn were keen to play too and it feels like the a natural thing to do. The players have been the ones most affected at the club over the past year and they want to be on the pitch.
“The past few weeks have been about reintegrating the players socially as well as the training side.
“The lads have come back fit and training is going really well. We’ve gone from one session a week to two to build up the physical conditioning and we have increased the intensity with the contact element and some tackling.”
On May 22 a combined first and second XV Fylde side will take on their Blackburn counterparts at the east Lancashire club’s Ramsgreave Drive base, while Fylde Saracens/Vandals face Blackburn Thirds at the Woodlands.
The fixtures are reversed on May 29, when the senior teams play at Fylde and the Saracens/Vandals head to Blackburn.
All games are 3pm kick-offs and will be played under adapted rules, with no scrums or mauls as an anti-Covid precaution.
This suits Loney just fine and he added: “Playing under amended rules is probably preferable at this stage.
“We don’t want to play a league season under those rules but after such a long time away it’s not a bad way to get back into it.
“And in terms of reintroducing the players to training, it means we’re able to focus on the whole team and not just on specific setpiece elements.”
Among those enjoying the resumption of rugby is loose-head prop Zach Barrow, who has graduated from the seconds to the senior squad.
A product of Lancaster Royal Grammar School, whose team he captained on tour in South Africa, Zach switched his attentions to karate while at the University of Bath.
And those martial arts skills have complemented his rugby training as Barrow told the club website: “The values of discipline, respect and dedication were are drilled into me and matched extremely well with rugby values, so I hope to continue to follow those through my Fylde career.
“The year of Covid has been tough for everyone but it has allowed me to refocus and rethink some of my ambitions.
“Because of this, I think I’m even more hungry to represent the Fylde first team. I can’t wait to play again.”
Loney said: “Zach has ambitions to play first XV games and I am sure he will compete hard for a place in the coming season.
“He is strong and powerful in a variety of contact situations.
“I am especially excited to work with him.”
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