Preston Grasshoppers’ away form a cause for concern

Hoppers were beaten last time out at home by Wharfdale (photo: Mike Craig)
Hoppers were beaten last time out at home by Wharfdale (photo: Mike Craig)

As England start their latest bid to win the Six Nations this weekend, on the domestic front Preston Grasshoppers and Fylde have away games against the bottom two in National League Two North – weather permitting.

Hoppers travel to Macclesfield, whom they defeated 19-11 at Lightfoot Green in October.

The hosts are in 15th place, four points above Peterborough Lions, who have a game in hand

Macclesfield have won four games – all at home – and lost 16, including the last five in a row.

Oddly, among their victims are Otley and Hinckley, who are fifth and sixth in the table. They are 18 points from safety.

Hoppers remain ninth after last week’s one-point home defeat by Wharfedale, after which head coach Paul Arnold said: “If we don’t switch on next week, we could be in trouble.”

Preston have lost 12 out of 20, including nine out of 10 away from Lightfoot Green. They are 13 points above the bottom three and have to play all of them away.

Arnold has a few selection problems, caused by bumps and bruises and Ally Murray’s three yellow cards, two of which were being appealed against at an RFU disciplinary hearing this week.

Ruban Birch is definitely out and Ryan Purcell is unavailable.

So Hoppers will pick from a squad of 22 – last week’s starters and replacements plus Brad Crow and Chris Roddy.

Fylde’s first-ever visit to Peterborough follows a comprehensive home win over the Lions (47-7) in October.

Peterborough have lost 14, drawn one and won four – all at home, including a narrow victory over third-from-bottom South Leicester a couple of weeks ago.

Surprisingly, one of their other wins came against Chester, currently second in the table.

Fylde, with a record of 13 victories, one draw and six defeats, are still fourth, but now only five points behind leaders Hull Ionians and one point behind third-placed Huddersfield, who have a game in hand.

Vale of Lune have the weekend off, with no fixtures in the North Premier League.

Hoppers (from): Pope, Jordan, Crow, Hurst, Stott, Fitzpatrick, Spence, Davidson, Gough; Mabaya, Miller, Millea, Trippier, Altham, Arnold, Howard, Roddy, Carlson, Murray, Leatherbarrow, Lamprey, Procter.