Leigh fired up to face neighbours in friendly clash

Leigh Centurions head of rugby Derek Beaumont
Leigh Centurions head of rugby Derek Beaumont

LEIGH’S head of rugby Derek Beaumont says he can’t wait to see the Kingstone Press Championship Champions return to action on Sunday.

But the club has revealed close season signing Richard Beaumont has not been seen at the club since before Christmas sparking fears for his wellbeing.

In the ‘Battle of the Borough’ Leigh entertain Wigan Warriors in the Paul Prescott Testimonial at LSV on Sunday (3pm).

Prescott, now aged 29, was forced to retire from the game prematurely due to injury after representing his home-town club with distinction. During his time with the Warriors he made 145 first-team appearances between 2004 and 2013, scoring five tries and featured in the Wigan sides that lifted the Super League Grand Final in 2010 and the Challenge Cup in 2011.

Prescott also made seven appearances for the Centurions on loan in 2006, playing alongside current head coach Paul Rowley in the front row and earning Leigh Heritage Number 1272.

Leigh are relishing a tough challenge after Wigan coach Shaun Wane named a strong squad for the game.

Beaumont said: “I am really looking forward to this fixture and to finally seeing some rugby. Having seen the squad Shaun Wane has announced there can be no argument that he is sending a very strong side and taking the fixture seriously.

“It is a shame that we only have 20 fit bodies at the moment with some key players including Martyn Ridyard recovering from preseason operations.

However, I am confident that whoever in our squad graces a Leigh shirt will put in a good performance and present a good challenge. Paul Rowley prepares his team to challenge in every game and all his teams take to the field believing they can win. It’s part of our culture.

“However, we are under no illusions as to the challenge Wigan will present. We have prepared with a meticulous preseason which has gone very well, save for the few injuries we have picked up along the way. We know what we want to get out of each game at each stage of the preseason and I am confident we will get what we want from this tough fixture.”

Beaumont added: “As you saw last season from our friendlies it wasn’t what was on the scoreboard that mattered, it was what we gained from the experience and that set us in good stead for a remarkable season. This season’s round of friendlies pose different challenges and each is carefully planned. There is no better fixture for a Leigh fan than a tough encounter with Wigan and I am sure our fans will let the boys know they are right behind them.”

One area that the club aren’t short on numbers is in the front row and that looks to serve up a nice battle with the introduction Fuifui Moimoi who is confirmed to make his debut. However, one player that won’t feature is Richard Beaumont who has not been seen at the club for some time.

Commenting on this situation Mr Beaumont said: “Richard has not shown up for training since before Christmas and despite numerous efforts from Paul, Martin Shuttleworth his agent and myself we have been unable to make contact with him. We were genuinely concerned for his wellbeing at one point but we now understand he is okay.

“It is a strange affair and one I have never known in my time within the sport. There is always a solution but if you cannot communicate with somebody there isn’t much you can do. It’s ironic really that people thought we had too many middle men at the start of the season. However, coming into our first friendly we still have Tom Spencer recovering from an operation and Martin Aspinwall in for one today. When you add to that the missing Beaumont and all of a sudden we have the bare minimum Paul likes to work with.

“The big lads have trained really hard and Fui has fitted right in there challenging them from the start. I am particularly looking forward to seeing him don a Leigh shirt and getting stuck in. It is quite clear from his attitude to training that he has come here to do a job and make a good impression.”

The fixture will also see the presentation of the Arthur Thomas Memorial Trophy presented to the Leigh Centurions Man of the Match chosen by his family.

Mr Beaumont said: “It’s important that we continue to remember and respect Arthur Thomas. He was a fine man, rugby through and through who financed the club for many years with his hard-earned money.

“It is because of his family’s loyalty and support of the club as opposed to self-gain that we have been afforded the chance to take the club forward and that is something I will never forget.

“While remembering those whom the minute’s silence is in respect of on Sunday I will also be sparing a thought for Arthur. In fact Allan Rowley and I toasted a bottle of Arthur’s favourite Amarone wine to him when we were in Lanzarote, discussing how proud he would be watching down. There’s one thing for sure there will be a new recipient of the award this year with last year’s winner Martyn Ridyard not available for selection.”