Two iconic clubs of northwest rugby, Fylde and Preston Grasshoppers, will meet each other for the first time in over seven years this weekend.

Traditionally a Boxing Day game that begun in the early 1900s, there will be plenty of interest at Lightfoot Green on Saturday as the Hoppers and Fylde clash for their first 1st XV fixture since 2011.

Saturday will be just the 15th time that the clubs have faced one another since the millennium. Out of the 14 previous meetings he clubs have had this century, Fylde have been victorious in 11 and Preston have prevailed on  just three occasions.

Hoppers’ promotion from  North Premier to National 2 North and Fylde’s relegation from National 1 brings the derby back to life for both clubs in only the second league game of the season.

“One of the things that created the rivalry as well as our proximity, was that players had historically left Hoppers to go to Fylde as a means of progressing their rugby careers,” said former Preston player John Chesworth.

Many a player has swapped Preston colours in favour of rivals Fylde, and vice-versa. No exception to this rule is Preston Grasshoppers head coach Paul Arnold who played and coached at Fylde for seven years and is seen as a major part of the clubs success in recent years.

Paul Arnold as coach of Fylde in 2015. Photo Credit: TRU

“Having been at both clubs I know what this game means to both the players and the fans,” began Arnold. “We know that we’re coming up against a very good team in Fylde. We will have to improve on last week’s performance, but it’s a derby game with a big home crowd to cheer us on.”

Arnold’s Preston side features several former Fylde players with mercurial try scorer for Grasshoppers Matt Lamprey possibly being the most prevalent example. Fylde  also posses two former Hoppers players, Connor Wilkinson and Tom Grimes, as they came through the ranks at Lightfoot Green showing just how close the clubs are.

“The Preston games always stand out when I think back on my Fylde career, particularly the games around Christmas which added an extra buzz to the game,” former Fylde captain, Sam Beaumont told the Grasshoppers website.

“It was always good to play against lads who you had been up against since mini juniors and whether it was Colts, 2nd or 1st team and it was always a game I hated to lose!”

Both sides had contrasting opening weekends to this season.  Preston lost at Chester 48-37 and Fylde were victorious at Woodlands against Otley. Preston will be hoping for a better result, whilst Fylde will hope to build on their opening day victory in their quest to get back into National 1.

With this being the first time this fixture has been played since Jason Robinson wore Fylde colours, it is set to be a feisty affair with both clubs having something to play for so early on in the season.