Pre-season friendly: Esher Rugby v Cardiff (24 August, Molesey Road - 2pm)
By Muhammed Sher (@MSSher1)
Ahead of a first-ever clash against Welsh Premiership outfit Cardiff this weekend, new backs coach Craig Chalmers says his charges are chomping at the bit to step up their preparation ahead of the start of the league programme early next month.
After a relatively straightforward 37-19 triumph at the Big Field against a lively Dorking side, the intensity will ratchet up a notch this coming Saturday with the visit of a Cardiff side that will be looking ahead to a tough British & Irish Cup qualifier against Pontypridd in a fortnight’s time.
Chalmers, formerly in charge of Melrose, was unveiled as the third member of the Esher senior coaching group during the week, and, despite only having been at the Club for a matter of days, is looking forward to the challenge that the Welshmen will pose, seven days before a final pre-season clash against GKIPA Championship members London Scottish.
“There are some very talented players here and that, for a coach, is very exciting,” said Chalmers, capped 60 times by Scotland during an illustrious playing career.
“A lot of the guys in the group have the desire and ambition to play at a higher level and they have the raw talent to be able to achieve that goal. My job is to help them realise that and to do so, we need to see the guys tested, every week, and they certainly will be against Cardiff.
“A number of new faces have come into the squad over the summer, and they’ve all gelled well, and you can clearly see a cohesion developing amongst the players, which will only grow as they begin to play together on a regular basis.
“The boys had a good hit-out against Dorking, and it was the ideal game to get the legs moving and blow away a few of the cobwebs, especially for those that haven’t been involved in the sevens programme over the summer.
“However, with all due respect to Dorking, Cardiff will be an entirely different proposition and we know that we will have to raise our game a notch. The squad has worked hard this week, and you can sense the excitement – pre-season is crucial to any team, but ultimately players want an outlet to show off the hard work they’ve put in during the week, and Saturday will hopefully provide that for them.”
The side from the Welsh capital struggled in a very competitive Welsh Principality Premiership last term, finishing in eighth position, as well as completing their British & Irish Cup campaign without registering a win.
Despite that, Martyn Fowler’s side began their preparations for the upcoming year with a routine 61-0 win over Fishguard & Goodwick, running in nine tries at Pheonix Park.
Fowler opted to use all the resources at his disposal in that game, and will do so again on Saturday, having named two different XVs for either half.
Esher forwards coach Ricky Nebbett released his team on Thursday, announcing a 27-man matchday squad.
Captain Ian Kench misses out, as a pre-caution after taking a knock to the head against Dorking, whilst scrum-half Andy Garner is also ruled out after sustaining heavy bruising on his knee in the same game. Robbie Shaw is away on international duty with the USA, whilst Arran Cruickshanks, Andy Wright, James Campbell, Joe Brown, Richard Smart, Ross Fowles and Simon Edwards are all unavailable.
Two trialists will take up their place on a 12-strong bench, with young prop Alex Mount and fly-half Freddie Strange, who played for Harlequins in the World Club Sevens last Sunday, hoping to impress both the management and the home faithful.
Kick-off is at 2pm.
Esher Rugby: 15 Luke Daniels; 14 Anders Mogensen, 13 Jack Cooke, 12 Tom Cheeseman (c), 11 Paul Olima; 10 Mickey Wilson, 9 Patrick O’Grady; 1 David Millard, 2 Neil Sweeney, 3 Stewart Maguire; 4 Alex Bibic, 5 Cameron Gentles; 6 Mike Macfarlane, 7 Pete Synnott, 8 Brandon Walker
Replacements: 16 Ollie Mines, 17 Billy Harding, 18 Alex Mount, 19 Kris Chesney, 20 George Drye, 21 Steve Wood, 22 Tom Whelan, 23 Charlie Gossington, 24 Tom Chalcraft, 25 Jay Udo-Udoma, 26 Freddie Strange, 27 Spencer Sutherland
Cardiff (first half): 15 Ryan Lee; 14 Steffan Jones, 13 Mike Stephens, 12 Darren Ryan (c), 11 Brett Chatwin; 10 Jack Maynard, 9 Garyn Lucas; 1 Thomas Davies, 2 Ethan Lewis, 3 Lloyd Elliot; 4 Nick White, 5 Miles Normandale; 6 Ben Roach, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 8 James Sheeky
Cardiff (second half): 15 Jack Maynard; 14 Shaun Powell, 13 Luke Ford, 12 Tom Pascoe, 11 Polu Uhi; 10 Ceiron Thomas, 9 Tom Slater; 1 Lewis Smout, 2 Aaron Fowler, 3 Ryan Harford; 4 James Murphy, 5 Dan Partridge; 6 Jamie Ringer, 7 Jonathon Edwards (c), 8 Sam Feehan