Rawlings void looks hard to fill

Ryan de la Harpe in action against Sale Sharks and (below) Chris Johnson.

Ryan de la Harpe in action against Sale Sharks and (below) Chris Johnson.

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THE lengthy suspension suffered by Fylde second-row Gareth Rawlings continues to trouble coach Mark Nelson, and he says he is nowhere near filling the void.

He is banned until January, 2013 after an off-field misdemeanour playing for England Counties on tour in Africa.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

Nelson admitted: “I have this albatross around my neck, and I can’t shake it off. I am looking round and I am trying, but every time I unearth something there is always an obstacle in our way.

“If we had Josh Beaumont (attending Durham University and also registered with Sale) that would solve the problem, but we will only have him for some games.”

“It is tough, but it is something that we will have to deal with.”

The Fylde coach gleaned plenty of encouragement from Fylde’s
pre-season friendly with Premiership Sale Sharks, the home side performing with enormous credit in the 38-26 loss.

He said: “It was a very worthwhile game – Sale were very well organised in defence and attack, but we still managed to make eight quick line-breaks against a Premiership unit.

“A lot of young players put their hand up for selection.

“We did ring the changes, but it showed that we have strength across the board, though we still have a headache in the second row.

“But in every other position we have people challenging, who are listening to what we are saying in training and playing the way we want them to.

“This match showed that we can compete against teams who are really well organised.

“This is a process on the road to the first match against Esher, but I am very satisfied with what we got out of the Sale game, notwithstanding the fact we got a few bumps and bruises, though fortunately they weren’t breaks or tears.”

Nelson added: “I would rather that happened on August 11 rather than much later –that’s why we had that game now.

“People saw a lot of tries and it should make people want to come and watch Fylde and Sale as well.

“From both clubs’ point of view, it ticked a lot of boxes.

“I was never really going to look at the scoreline, but it was the nature of the performance that was key to it.

“The lads were not overawed by what was in front of them and they gave as good as they got.”

The renamed Fylde second team, Fylde Hawks (formerly Wanderers), play Bury on Saturday under the guidance of new player-coach Adam Jackson.