By MARK BENGOECHEA
PETER WINTERBOTTOM is urging Esher to show their character as his injury-hit side begin a month of huge matches that could define their season.
The Eees host table-toppers Taunton Titans on Saturday and also face November clashes against top-three clubs Henley Hawks and Tonbridge Juddians plus Worthing and Old Albanian.
But fourth-placed Esher have been hit by a string of injuries with Hugo Solway suffering concussion in the 24-7 victory at Bournemouth last Saturday to join skipper Tristan Roberts and Ben Davies on the sidelines as they go through the mandatory rest protocols after head knocks.
The Surrey side have also been rocked by the news that versatile back James Chaumeton will be out for several weeks after suffering a leg fracture at Bournemouth while Callum Monks is still out with a calf injury.
Despite the mounting injury problems, Esher Director of Rugby Winterbottom backs his side to match league leaders Taunton as they go in search of a fifth straight league victory.
Winterbottom said: "These injuries have come at the wrong time but we've got to get through that and show our character, but it's going to be a massive hurdle to get over the line against Taunton.
"It's certainly our biggest challenge so far this season. Absolutely. November is such a big month for us, and this is the first of the games that will define the season.
"It's going to be a hell of a game and we've got to step up to the plate and produce a performance. We all know that. But we've looked at Taunton and we've got a few plans and it's a question of the boys executing the game plan. But I'm confident the guys will equip themselves well and hopefully if we perform well, we'll come out with the victory."
With Chaumeton and Roberts missing, Winterbottom will switch Sam Druce to fly-half after the centre came in for his first start of the season at Bournemouth. That means Lennox Anwanyu will move inside from outside centre to allow Dan Rowland to take the No13 shirt.
Winterbottom said:" When James Chaumeton was taken off Sam had to go to fly-half and equipped himself pretty well there, so he'll be at 10. But I've no reservations about him. He's a tough player and a good footballer and I'm sure he'll do a good job.
"Overall we played pretty well at Bournemouth and controlled the game pretty well in very difficult conditions, though we were a bit disappointed not to get the bonus point."
The only other changes to the side to take on Taunton are in the back row where Lorcan Dow comes in on the blindside with Cam Wilkins at openside while Max Berry starts at No8.