Front rower Pope gets Fylde coach’s blessing

Fylde's loanee Jake Pope
Fylde's loanee Jake Pope
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Fylde rugby club player-coach Paul Arnold has praised the sterling endeavours of prop forward Jake Pope since his arrival at the Woodlands on loan from Sale Sharks.

Pope had to leave the field injured against Blaydon, but he has been passed fit for the visit of Ampthill & District tomorrow (3pm).

Arnold said: “I can’t praise Pope too highly.

“You have to remember that he is only 19 years old and we are having to hang our hat on him and playing him in the front row at such a tender age at National League One level.

“He can certainly become a regular player in the Premiership.

“He has aspirations to get into the England Under-20 squad and we are keen to do everything we can to help him achieve that.”

Arnold said it was a big ask of Pope to perform at this level and he had a similar sentiment about promising centre Connor Wilkinson, who is also in the line-up tomorrow.

The Fylde player-coach added: “Connor had a quiet game at Blaydon by his standards, but he is going to be a big player for us.

“He is also only 19 and it is good that we can have two young local lads in him and Ralph Dowds playing together in the centre tomorrow.”

Another Fylde prop, Sam Simpson, who suffered a calf injury against Blaydon, is named on the bench, with Jonny Wild getting a place in the starting line-up.

Back row forward George Blackwell is poised to join neighbours Preston Grasshoppers on loan.

If that goes through then he will join half-back Jack Harrison and forward Matt Garrod, both of whom are already at Lightfoot Green.

Arnold said: “I have already spoken with (director of rugby) Alan Holmes at Preston about George.

“He is a back row forward for whom we have high hopes; he has already been in the Scotland under-19 squad and has aspirations to break into their under-20 squad as well.

“He is not going to do that if he is playing second team rugby at Fylde; he needs to be playing National League rugby if he is going to fulfill his hopes with Scotland.”

Relations at certain levels between Fylde and Preston have been frosty in the past, but Arnold is one who is all for a spirit of co-operation between the two clubs.

He said: “We want to see rugby in the area flourish and it’s in no-one’s interest to see a team like Preston not maintaining their position in the leagues.”

Harrison and Garrod have had good reports for their displays for Preston.

Fylde (v Ampthill) Briers, Dorrington, Dowds, Wilkinson, Armstrong; Smith, Nicholls; Pope, Burtonwood, Wild, Gray, Turley, Fairbrother, Stewart, Lamprey. Replacements: Simpson, Loney, Hughes, Vernon.