Fylde RFC display depth despite Connor Wilkinson injury blow

Fylde RFC have had no problems scoring tries so far but will probably have to do so for the rest of the season without prolific centre Connor Wilkinson.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Friday, 1st October 2021, 4:56 pm

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The outstanding back may not feature at all in the 2021/22 campaign after damaging knee ligaments.

But Fylde still managed 12 tries in Saturday’s 80-26 victory over Harrogate, and they head to Rotherham tomorrow on top of National Two North after four straight wins.

Fylde's (from left) Tom Forster, Matt Garrod and Adam Lanigan all came through the club's min-juniors and scored in the first-team win over Harrogate last weekend

Joint-head coach Chris Briers said of Wilkinson: “The big one is Connor’s knee and it could be that he’s out for the season.

“He was playing against Sale (in Fylde’s final pre-season game) and having a stormer and it just went as he sidestepped.

“He’s having scans and at some point will probably need surgery.

“Our centres are doing a great job (with Tom Forster stepping into Wilkinson’s shoes) but Connor is a one-off player who can do certain things no-one else can.”

Fylde have also been without vice-captain Dave Fairbrother, recovering from a broken thumb, while scrum-half Matt Sturgess missed the Harrogate rout after a knock in training but that injury is not as serious as first feared.

The Woodlands club’s excellent start – they have 19 points from a possible 20 – despite their injury issues is testament to the strength of their squad and the quality of young players coming through the system.

One of those talented prospects, Tane Bentley, scored a hat-trick on his first start last weekend. Briers added: “Everything seemed to go right for Tane. He was a threat with the ball and it’s great that he is getting opportunities.

“But he has really applied himself to developing and learning from the more experienced players. It’s perfect for him to have players like (fellow back-rower) Phill Mills to learn from.

“We have good young players at the moment, though we are stronger in some areas than others. And we have good numbers in training – 30-plus at each first-team session.

”It’s good to have such a large group because when we need people to step up they have been involved in the sessions and can fit in.

“There’s quality in depth too and the Seconds won by an even bigger margin than ours on Saturday (90-14 against Kirkby Lonsdale).

“We have players in the first team who have come right the club from the mini-juniors. Some have established themselves in the first team over several years, even though they are still young.

“It’s a pretty young squad, which is becoming tight-knit and could last for quite a few seasons.”

All the indications are that this is a squad for the present as well as the future but Briers knows tougher tests await, starting at third-placed Rotherham.

“It’s been a great start dropping just the one point at Huddersfield so far. We’ve scored a lot of tries, put a lot of things together on the field that we’ve been working on and we seem to be improving.

“We often find it easy to keep going when we are up against it, but when you are more comfortable you can take your foot off the gas. The mentality to keep going against Harrogate was very pleasing.”

“We have to be positive but can’t rest on our laurels or expect that every week. Rotherham will be a tough battle.

“By all accounts they have a big pack and we can’t afford to take them on at their game.

“We need to stick to the way we want to play. If we do that I’m confident we can beat anyone in the league.”

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