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"Esher must retain intensity" says Winterbottom


PETER WINTERBOTTOM warns there will be no room for complacency as he is forced to ring the changes once again for Esher's trip to Worthing on Saturday.

The Surrey side will be hunting a sixth straight victory on the coast, boosted by their nail biting 10-8 home victory over Taunton Titans, who had been setting the pace in National Two Division South.

Director of Rugby Winterbottom says his players must retain their intensity and warns most of the sides in the division are capable of beating the top sides, pointing to Worthing's impressive 24-10 victory at Clifton last week.

That ended a nightmare run of six straight defeats for the Raiders, who had started the campaign with successive wins over Old Redcliffians and Bournemouth.

Winterbottom said: "With the conditions that we have at the moment, the sides are a lot closer to each other than they were at the start of the season, so your margin for error is not very great. You can't get away with making too many mistakes otherwise you'll get punished. It'll be a tough game at Worthing.

"They've got some good players, including Callum Waters, who was with us last year. They've had some odd results but to go away to Clifton and beat them was a hell of an achievement. When we go down to Clifton, if we win by a point, we'll be happy.

"But they've had some disappointing results too so it's difficult to say what sort of team will turn up against us. But I expect them to be very fired up and give us a good test.

"You need your senior players to really show the way and step up to the mark. That's the key. These are the sort games that you've got to win. It is fine margins against the best teams but it is also fine margins against some of the so-called lesser teams. We can't afford to let our guard own."

Winterbottom has been forced to make several changes from the side that at Taunton with three of those in the pack. Dan Lamb replaces Xavier Valentine at tighthead, Devlin Hope comes in at hooker while in the second row Adam Bullett takes over from Ben Donnell.

Fourth-placed Esher are boosted by the return of Tristan Roberts at fly-half after he was sidelined with concussion, so he renews his half-back combination with Jack Walsh, who retain the captain's armband.

Sam Druce, who was outstanding in his first start in the 10 jersey against Taunton, is in at inside centre with Dan Rowland unavailable so Lennox Anwanyu moves back out to 13. Joe Beckett is also unavailable, so Martin Freeman is back on the left wing.

Esher also include London Irish and England Under-20s hooker Ben Atkins on the bench while Ben Davies is also among the replacements after concussion.

Winterbottom said: "We've had a few changes but it is a question of the side building on the last few weeks and keeping the intensity going. I would like to have more settled side, but I guess every club's the same.

"We're having changes each week and it's a testament to the depth of the squad and the boys who have come in who have kept the momentum going.

"People like Sam Druce, who played only his second game at fly-half, slightly out of position, against the league leaders and in awful conditions. He did magnificently well. I don't know how many players have played first-team rugby this season but it is well into the 30s.

"Jack Walsh will remain as captain. He's done a particularly good job, he's stepped up to the mark, and he's taken on the leadership role well and is playing well personally.

"He's brought quite a lot to the party over the last couple of weeks. When we really needed that leadership, he's shown it, so he keeps the captain's armband. Tristan doesn't have a problem with that; he's still one of our two main play-makers in the side. It's great to have his experience and talent back. It's a great boost for the side." 

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