Steve Simpson

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Fylde RFC hooker Tom Burtonwood will miss the rest of the campaign - because his rugby career has gone west!

He has earned a deal to play club rugby in the United States for a three-month spell.

He is just one of several names missing from the Fylde squad that journeys to the North East tomorrow to play Darlington Mowden Park in National League One as the final month of matches gets under way

A whole raft of players will be missing for Fylde tomorrow, but player-coach Paul Arnold says they will still be able to send out a strong enough team to compete.

Such is his optimism that he has left himself out of the selected 20 players that do duty.

With Gareth Rawlings and Nick Gray locking the scrum, Arnold has given a call-up to promising second rower Matt Garrod to take a place on the replacements’ bench.

Arnold said: “There is nothing wrong with me and I would be raring to go.

“But I am looking to the future and that’s why we are giving Garrod his chance.

“It will be good experience for players Garrod, Connor Wilkinson and Richard Whiteside to play in a big stadium.”

The three youngsters - one in the starting line-up and two on the bench - are regarded as having a key part to play in the club’s long term future.

Tim Morton and Tim Jeffers were both hurt playing for Sale Jets this week.

Morton got a knock and won’t be risked, but Jeffers’ injury (ankle ligament) could keep him out of the game for four weeks.

Chris Johnson looks set to miss the season after suffering a serious mouth injury in the last match against Henley Hawks when he lost a tooth when getting a bang in the face.

The prognosis is that he is to be out for between four and six weeks.

Arnold said: “Johnson risks losing more teeth should he get another bang.”

The Fylde player-coach said he had no qualms about plunging Connor Wilkinson into the fly-half role in the absence of both Johnson and Morton.

Wilkinson will partner the experienced Greg Nicholls to make up the half-back pairing.

Arnold added: “He was man-of-the-match when Fylde Hawks beat Preston Grasshoppers on Good Friday. He scored a hat-trick and deserves to get his chance.

“It was a tough call between Phil Mills and Danny Maher as to who would be the replacement hooker.

“In the end, I decided to go for Mills and keep Alex Loney in from the start.

“The line-outs and the scrums were 100 per cent in the last match against Henley Hawks, and Loney showed in that match that he is still as good as anyone.”

Fylde: Bedlow; Bingham, Dowds, S Rawlings, Brennand; Wilkinson, Nicholls; Birchall, Loney, Griffiths, Gray, G Rawlings, Goodman, Vernon, Beaumont., Replacements: Lavelle, Mills, Stewart, Garrod, Whiteside.