Whirlwind week for Fylde and Lancashire boss Alex Loney ahead of County Championship final at Twickenham

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​​Trips to Twickenham with Lancashire are nothing new for Fylde’s Alex Loney but the coach has never experienced a whirlwind week quite like this.
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Last weekend’s nailbiting 29-28 victory over Yorkshire completed Lancashire’s clean sweep of group wins and secured their place in the Bill Beaumont County Championship final on Sunday, when they will face Kent at rugby union’s national stadium.

Record 25-time winners Lancashire have not contested the showpiece since 2018, when Loney played.

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Lancashire are bidding for a 26th triumph in rugby union's County Championship at Twickenham on SundayLancashire are bidding for a 26th triumph in rugby union's County Championship at Twickenham on Sunday
Lancashire are bidding for a 26th triumph in rugby union's County Championship at Twickenham on Sunday

Having reached the final in his first season as head coach, he has just a week to mastermind a victory on the hallowed turf.

“There are a lot of preparations to make in a short space of time,” Loney told The Gazette.

“The quick turnaround is all part of the challenge, and the management and committee were excellent in getting straight on to it and working tirelessly behind the scenes.

“After a mammoth contest on Saturday, our heads now turn to preparing the team for another one.

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“That win at Sedgley Park was an absolutely phenomenal example of county rugby, a Roses battle with everything on the line and two good sides playing what was effectively a semi-final.

“It was really tense but we held out. It was a bit hairy on the sidelines, holding on to such a slender lead, but I’m over the moon with the players and how they applied themselves.”

The Twickenham experience of Loney and his long-standing predecessor as head coach Mark Nelson, now squad co-ordinator, can only benefit Lancashire.

Loney’s first final was the victory over Devon in 2006 and the Red Rose county contested 10 of the next 12, winning seven.

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“I remember being captain when we beat Hertfordshire in 2011,” recalls Loney. “I couldn’t tell you how many I played in. It shows what an era we’ve had, though, and it all started through Mark.

“We didn’t want to wait any longer to reach a final and it’s nice to be back at Twickenham.

“We were always confident we had a good group but the message to the players is that we don’t want to be patting each other on the back yet.

“We desperately want to be successful on Sunday and do the business on the field.”

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A large Fylde contingent can again be expected in the Red Rose team.

The Woodlands club provided eight of the starting side for the Roses battle and three of the replacements.

All but five of Lancashire’s points last Saturday also came from Fylde players: tries by Henry Higginson and Connor Wilkinson and five Greg Smith goals.

Loney added: “The difficult thing is that quality players will have to miss out.

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“If we do win on Sunday, it won’t just be down to the 22 on the day – it will have been a squad effort.”

Opponents Kent have nothing like Lancashire’s pedigree in the competition – the most recent of their three wins was almost a century ago.

“We don’t know loads about Kent, to be honest, but playing teams you don’t really know is the beauty of this championship,” Loney said.

“In the league, you are familiar with other teams’ players and have lots of time to look at videos.

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“This week, the focus will be on trying to get our detail right and being accurate in everything we do.

“What is key is that you are adaptable on the day. If the other team bring something that causes you trouble, the players and coaches have to adapt. We all have to be tuned in to make good decisions.”

The final kicks off at 4pm on Sunday following the Barbarians v World XV international.

Earlier in the day, Lancashire also contest the Gill Burns Women’s County Championship final against Buckinghamshire at 10.30am.

Both county finals will be streamed live on the England Rugby YouTube channel.