Local sides all on the road

Preston Grasshoppers in their home defeat to Hull last weekend
Preston Grasshoppers in their home defeat to Hull last weekend
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In a quirk of the fixture computer, Preston Grasshoppers, Fylde, Vale of Lune and Kendal are all at home on the same Saturdays for the first six weeks of the new season.

So, after they all began with home advantage last week, all four hit the road tomorrow, depriving non-travelling fans the chance to alternate between neighbouring clubs.

Hoppers venture across the Pennines to Otley, whom they defeated twice in National League Two North last season – 37-22 at home and 13-12 away. The clubs ended the campaign in 11th and 12th places, with Preston having 10 more points.

Otley made the better start this year, with a 24-23 victory at Birmingham/Solihull, while Hoppers were going down 16-11 at home to Hull.

Hoppers make four changes to last weekend’s squad of 20.

Centre Jack Ward replaces the injured Tom Hurst in the starting XV, Jack Walker comes in at flanker after a couple of years in Cumbria and Dan Madden and Harry Moulding join the replacements.

Fly-half Lloyd Davies, prop John Peterson and hooker Brad Tuff are starters this week. But coach Garth Dew is keen to point out that, with rolling substitutions in operation this season, he is choosing what is very much a whole-match squad.

“Everyone will have an impact,” he said.

Vale’s first away game is at Eccles, newly promoted to North One West. It is the clubs’ first meeting since a weakened Vale side went down 10-14 in an RFU Senior Vase tie in 2008.

Eccles made a bad start to life at a higher level when they lost 10-40 at Carlisle last Saturday. Vale, meanwhile, had a very similar scoreline at home to Kirkby Lonsdale, winning 39-10.

Injuries to Ben Charnley and Alex Baines and the unavailability of Ross Pillow and Matt Gardner force Vale into changes.

Scott Manning starts at centre, with winger Chris Weeks promoted from the seconds.

Phil Berry returns as hooker, Jack Ferguson props, Paul McLaren-Dorrington is at lock and Ben Dorrington comes into the back row.

Fylde take on a promoted side in their first away fixture, when they visit Macclesfield, champions of National Two North last season with 26 victories, one draw and three defeats.

Macc’s first two games in National One are both at home, the first of them producing a 22-35 defeat by Richmond.

Fylde began their latest bid to win promotion to the Championship with a bonus-point 31-16 home win over Blackheath.

The only change to the Fylde lione-up sees Sam Beaumont starting in the second row, with Joe Robinson on the bench.

Winger Ollie Brennand will make his 200th appearance in national leagues and cups since his debut in 2004, in which time he has racked up an impressive 171 tries.

Kendal and Wilmslow shared the North One West spoils last season, the Cumbrians winning 33-20 at home and losing 20-26 away.

Hoppers: Embleton; Trueman, Baines, Ward, Kendall; Davies, Kindred; Peterson, Tuff, Altham, Tomlinson, Murray, Lees, Walker, Taylor.

Vale: Ball; Bird, Macluskie, Manning, Weeks; Lomas, Swarbrick; Smith, Berry, Ferguson, McLaren-Dorrington, Fellows, D Baines, Dorrington, Wallbank. Replacements: Mills, Madden, Morton, Moulding, Allen.

Fylde: Spragg; Dorrington, C Briers, S Rawlings, Brennand; Johnson, de la Harpe; Birchall, Burtonwood, Lewis, Beaumont, G Rawlings, Vernon, Stewart, Fairbrother. Replacements: Griffiths, Maher, Arnold, Robinson, Banks.