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Fylde Rugby Union Club is a rugby union club based in Lytham St Annesmarker, on the Fylde coastmarker in Lancashiremarker. Its home venue is the Woodlands Memorial Groundmarker on Blackpool Road in Ansdellmarker. The first team plays in English rugby's National Division Three North.

The club has four other senior teams, the Wanderers, the Saracens, the Vikings and the Vandals who play in the English North West League: respectively in the NW Premiership, NW3 North, NW4 North and NW5 North. There are also Under-19 and Under-17 teams who play in the Lancashire & Cheshire regional leagues.

Woodlands Memorial Ground is shared by Blackpool Rugby League Club.

History

Overview

Fylde Rugby Club was founded on 25 July, 1919, literally on the toss of a coin when a group of Manchestermarker businessmen met at Ansdell Institute to discuss the formation of either a rugby union or a football club. A coin was tossed and it fell in favour of rugby union. The club grew steadily and achieved a strong fixture list by the 1960s and has been in the National Leagues since their inception in 1987.

Formative years

In May, 1920 the present Woodlands site was first used for rugby. The admission was 5d and the first yearly gate receipts amounted to just over £57. In 1922, Harold Brooks was elected President and through his efforts Fylde progressed. He also provided the present stand. In 1924 the club was represented in the Lancashiremarker team by players such as "Ham" Neville, who was capped 33 times, and "Pop" Ogden, who was classed as the most successful kicker of the time. He was the originator of the "round the corner" style of kicking now used by more or less all kickers worldwide. The club was strengthened by the merger with Blackpool Old Boys in the 1934-35 season.

During the World War II, Fylde, along with many other clubs, had to close as the Army took over the ground. In 1946 the President, G.W. Parkes, welcomed back members from the war and by this time the ground had been purchased and named the Woodlands Memorial Ground in recognition of those members who gave their lives during the war.

Post-war years

In the 1950s, the dressing rooms were built and Pop Ogden was elected President of Lancashire. Arthur Bell and Rothwell Bamber were given life memberships for their work with the club. Bell served for 34 years as the Honorary Secretary.

In 1964 the second England trial was held at Fylde and Sir Laurie Edwards opened the new pavilion extension and presented the club with a rugby union shield which is still on the clubhouse wall.

1969 was Fylde’s jubilee year, when they were fielding six or seven teams every Saturday. The club's two most famous players were home grown, Malcolm Phillips and Bill Beaumont. Phillips, who attended Arnold Schoolmarker in Blackpoolmarker, won 25 England caps at centre between 1958 and 1964. He was President of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) from 2004 to 2005 and has served on the International Rugby Board (IRB) for a number of years. Beaumont was also a one club man having joined Fylde as a 17 year old in 1969 and stayed with the club until injury forced him to retire in 1982. His father had also played for Fylde and he wrote suggesting that his son be given a trial. His first game was in the sixth team as fullback. With his size and his 6’3” height, he was very quickly made into a forward to play for the first team. He earned 34 England caps between 1975 and 1982, 21 of them as captain. This included leading the side to the Grand Slam in 1980, as well as skippering the 1980 British Lions tour to South Africa. In retirement he has remained in the public eye as a broadcaster and columnist. He is still a regular face at Fylde. He has also made major contribution to rugby administration in the United Kingdommarker and internationally as an IRB Member, with the RFU and he was manager of the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

In the same era, a young Roger Uttley, subsequently to skipper and then manage England, and Brian Ashton, England's Head Coach, also played for Fylde. Other more recent internationals associated with Fylde include England wingers Tony Swift and Simon Smith, who were capped in the 1980s after leaving the club and locks Steve Bainbridge and Wade Dooley, established internationals who won further caps whilst with Fylde.

England 'A' winger Mark Preston had a record of scoring 98 tries in 131 appearances. He subsequently made a similar impact in rugby league with Wigan and Halifax.

Present day

As with so many former top-flight clubs outside the Guinness Premiership, attendances at home matches have fallen in recent years. In the early 1990s, 2,000 spectators watched local derbies with Preston Grasshoppers and as many as 5,000 attended in 1982 to see Bill Beaumont’s XV versus Lancashire, staged when he retired through injury. But the club still stages representative games such as the England v Scotlandmarker Under 19 international in January 2004 which attracted 2,500 spectators. There were 1,500 people at the Fylde v Preston Grasshoppers league match in December 2006.

Today, the teams still go onto the field wearing the colours of claret, gold and white, which were originally the colours of the Huddersfield Old Boys. It has never been resolved why the colours were chosen. The colours have not changed, although the design is now rather different.

Recent seasons have seen Fylde move between National Division One, National Division Two and most recently National Division Three North. The club ran up significant debts in trying to compete in National One from 1997 to 1999 and had to sell a small portion of the Woodlands' grounds in order to re-establish financial health. With the receipts of the sale, a period of redevelopment of various facilities at Woodlands began in January 2005. The new clubhouse opened in October 2005 and houses 500 people.

The club finished in sixth place in National Division Three North in the 2003-04 season, fourth in 2004-05 and seventh in 2005-06. The club's rugby management, including coaches Stuart Connell, who used to play for Fylde and Cumbria), Martin Scott, who played for Orrell, Fylde and Scotland, as well as Alistair Atkinson who played for Orrell and Sedgley Park. They are planning a promotion bid back to National Division Two.

Leading scorers in the 2005-06 season included skipper and fly-half Mike Scott with 300 points, and one of the top goal kickers in national rugby, winger Nick Royle with 16 tries and flanker Andy Atkinson with 11 tries. The Players' Player of the Season was Paul Newton who was appointed skipper for the 2006-07 season.

Like so many clubs, Fylde has struggled in the professional era to maintain a balance between a members' club, based on traditional local community values and structures, and a professional outfit able to compete for players, regionally and nationally. The club has reasserted itself as a community-oriented members' club, basically amateur, bringing together experienced players in the area, together with nurturing considerable local talent and a sprinkling of overseas players. The club fields ten mini/junior sides, a Junior Colts squad and four other senior teams, the Wanderers, the Saracens, the Vikings and the Vandals. Apart from a new clubhouse completed in September 2005, the club's strategic plan to 2011 envisages an expansion of community multisports facilities including an all-weather pitch and floodlighting.

Midway through the 2007-08 season the coaches Stuart Connell and Martin Scott were replaced with Mark Nelson the Lancashire coach who has previous experience of coaching at the club along with a successful spell as backs coach at Sale. Nelson has recruited a number of high calibre players including England Counties' Steve Nutt, Craig Aikman and David Wilks. He has also rekindled the club's relationship with Sale which has allowed him to call on some of the Premiership club's young players whilst Sale have also given game time to Fylde's Nick Royle. Roger Banks is the current 1st XV captain.

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