Influential Fylde RFC back row forward Evan Stewart has spoken of the reasoning behind his decision to quit the club at the end of the season and link up with Vale Of Lune in a player-coach role.
Stewart came to the Woodlands in 2011 and has made 134 appearances, scoring 61 tries.
He and his wife Megan, Fylde’s former sports therapist and head physio, recently had a son, Ethan and the family live in the Lancaster area, so the tie-up with Vale made sense.
Stewart said: “I have loved my time at Fylde on all fronts.
“The rugby has been fantastic and playing in National One has been a great experience.
“The decision to leave was not an easy one but the opportunity to coach at Vale of Lune together with a new family and increasing work commitments means it a decision that is best for myself, Megan and Ethan.
“I would like to thank all the coaches, management, medical team, players and supporters over the past few seasons.
“Fylde is a special club and I will continue to watch the clubs progress no matter where I am.
“I have made some great friends both on and off the pitch and hope to continue those relationships for a long long time.”
Fylde player-coach Paul Arnold added: “We’ll be very sorry to see Evan leave the club.
“He’s been an inspirational and brave player and leader over six seasons.
“I played under him when he was skipper and he did an exceptional job.
“Like all good leaders, he didn’t ask anyone to do things he wouldn’t do himself.
“He put his body on the line week in, week out and it’s taken a real pounding in consequence.
“But, whenever he suffered an injury, he worked hard at rehab and couldn’t wait to get back in the action.
“He is technically a very good player and doesn’t look out of his depth in any rugby environment.
“He’s helped us with coaching and will without doubt in his new role become as successful a senior coach as he was a player.
“Of course, he already has several years of school coaching experience behind him.
“Vale of Lune have pulled off a real coup!”
Prior to coming to Fylde, Stewart played for Loughborough Students and Macclesfield, where he also had a spell as skipper.
Stewart is in the Fylde team that entertains Cambridge in National League One on Saturday.
There is a home debut for Tom Carleton at full-back.
The teenager is the son of John Carleton, the former England winger.
Carleton has been knocking on the door of selection for the Fylde first team and claimed two tries last Saturday playing for the Hawks’ second team in the match with Sedgley Park.
He is one of six former Kirkham Grammar School players in the Fylde squad.
There’s a welcome return up front following concussion for Simon Griffiths.
Jordan Dorrington is an absentee; he is set to miss most, if not all, of the remainder of the season as he is training with the fire service.
Dave Fairbrother is still suspended and none of the Sale Sharks contingent figure in the squad.
It is Fylde’s only home match at the Woodlands in March,
Fylde, who are 11th in the table, take on a Cambridge side, two places below them and struggling for form recently.
Cambridge have won just one match and drawn one in their last 10 fixtures.
With just six matches of the campaign to go, Fylde are 15 points clear of the relegation places and Cambridge 11.
Match of the day in the division is the scrap between Hull Ionians and Blaydon, who are in the biggest danger of going down along with Macclesfield.
Fylde: Carleton; Armstrong, Briers, Wilkinson, Bingham; Smith, Nicholls; Griffiths, Burtonwood, Lewis, Gray, Turley, Vernon, Stewart, Lamprey. Replacements: Wild, Gregory, Brookes, Arnold, Spragg.
Saturday’s fixtures: Esher versus Rosslyn Park; Birmingham-Moseley v Plymouth Albion; Blackheath v Darlington Mowden Park; Hartpury College v Old Albanian; Macclesfield v Loughborough Students; Coventry v Ampthill & District; FYLDE v Cambridge; Hull Ionians v Blaydon.