Fylde RFC player-coach Paul Arnold has refuted any suggestion he is running the risk of a mauling at the hands of Premiership side Sale Sharks in tomorrow’s pre-season friendly at Heywood Road.
Sale are expected to wheel out some of their big guns as they fine-tune their preparation for the new season.
But Arnold is having none of it when anyone suggests Fylde are biting off more than they can chew and are on a hiding to nothing.
Quite the opposite, says Arnold, who insists the Fylde players on duty will not be bowed by the task in hand but will relish the experience.
He told The Gazette: “They are rugby players and they want to play in matches like this in front of a crowd that could be as high as 5-6,000.
“If players don’t want to be involved in a match like this, then they are in the wrong game. I am sure the players are looking forward to it.”
Fylde include a number of players newly recruited for the 2016-17 National League campaign, which starts next month.
Among them are Jack Turley, Matt Lamprey, Scott Armstrong and Jack Harrison.
Also included is forward George Bordill, a product of Sandbach RFC, who is also on Sale’s books and is a Scottish Under-19 cap.
His brother Will appeared for Preston Grasshoppers last season.
Prop forward Tom Hannon, who has played for Oldham and Lancashire U20s, has also been named.
The squad is also likely to include former Coventry prop forward Tiploma Kivalu.
There were talks about him signing for Fylde on a permanent basis but terms could not be agreed and the deal was not completed.
However, the Tongan could still get a run-out for Fylde against Sale to help get to match fitness as he looks for another club.
Winger Anthony Bingham is included. He has been linked with a move away from Fylde but has agreed to stay.
Arnold said: “We are pleased about that and he has that X-factor about him.
“He plays on the wing and it is not a position where we have a lot of depth and cover.”
Missing from action will be back row forwards Ben Vernon and former skipper Sam Beaumont.
Arnold said: “Vernon has been struggling with a calf injury and hopefully he will be ready for the start of the season.
“Beaumont still has a problem with a shoulder and has been in rehab. We are looking towards the end of September when he is able to come back.”
Jordan Dorrington, Mark Goodman and Jonny Wild are unavailable for the Sale Sharks match. Tom Burtonwood and Danny Maher look like battling it out for the hooker’s role.
Extra competition could well come in the shape of former Kirkham Grammar School hooker Ben Gregory.
Dave Fairbrother, who has been training with European champions Saracens, is also in the Fylde squad.
Tomorrow’s match at Sale will kick-off at 4pm and will be followed seven days later by another friendly against Sedgley Tigers at the Woodlands. The opening league fixture of the season on September 3 will be at home to Birmingham Moseley, who will play their first match since being relegated from the Championship.
Sharks recently announced that their new captain will be former Fylde forward Josh Beaumont, who has recovered from a shoulder injury which forced him to miss being considered for the England team that won the 2016 Six Nations Championship.
Beaumont signed a three-year contract recently with the Sale club and was named club captain.
The Fylde versus Sale Sharks encounter will be preceded by a match between Sale Jets and Sale FC.
Among those expected to line up for Sale FC are Chris Johnson, Gareth Rawlings and Dan Birchall, who left Fylde at the end of last season.
Fylde squad v Sale Sharks
Forwards: Adam Lewis. Tom Burtonwood, Simon Griffiths, Nick Gray, Jack Turley, Matt Lamprey, Evan Stewart, Dave Fairbrother, Danny Maher, Matt Garrod, George Bordill, George Blackwell, Tiploma Kivalu. Tom Hannon and Ollie Trippier.
Backs: Greg Nicholls, Jack Harrison, Oli Brennand, Jamie Brookes, Scott Armstrong, Scott Rawlings, Anthony Bingham, Chris Briers, Ralph Dowds, Connor Wilkinson, James Bailey.
A big turn-out is expected today for the funeral of former Fylde scrum-half Chris O’Toole, who collapsed and died aged 50 after a cricket match.
The funeral takes place at St Matthew’s Church in Thatto Heath, St Helens, followed by cremation. There will be a reception later at West Park RUFC in the town.
Arnold will be among the Fylde contingent paying their final respects to the all-action Fylde and Lancashire number nine.