Winterbottom has grounds for concern

By MARK BENGOECHEA

ESHER have been warned that Westcliff will be fired up to mark the opening of their new ground in style when the two teams clash on Saturday.

The Essex club have moved to brand new facilities near Southend airport and Esher Director of Rugby Peter Winterbottom accepts it will make his side's task even more difficult.

Westcliff may be in the middle of a relegation battle after collecting only two wins in 13 matches this season, but closer inspection of their results suggests Esher will be in for a tough encounter.

Two weeks ago, Westcliff picked up an impressive 24-19 victory against sixth-placed Redruth to claim their first home win of the campaign and the previous month beat Worthing away, a feat Esher could not manage.

Winterbottom has told his players to expect another tight match. He said: "They will be right up for it. It's a magnificent new clubhouse and facilities all round and if there's ever a game they're going to be up for, it's this one.

"So, we are very wary of them. Their results at home have not been bad; they ran Henley very close so it's clearly not an easy place to go. We must make sure we kick on from the start and meet fire with fire.

"We've had a couple of banana skins already this season and certainly we don't want one at Westcliff. We want to go there and play our game, but we know Westcliff are a dogged side and will be difficult to overcome."

Seventh-placed Esher are boosted by a fine 31-20 victory over Old Albanian last Saturday which ended a run of three successive defeats.

Winterbottom said: "We played pretty well and managed to keep the ball a lot better. That was borne out by our tackle count, which was 214 the week before (at Tonbridge) but 93 against Albanians, so that was very encouraging.

"We did make mistakes and their two tries came through relatively unforced errors, but the overall ambition of the side was good. We've just got to keep trying to improve our skills."

The Eees make five changes from the side that beat Albanians. Xavier Valentine is back at tighthead, Hugh Sloan starts at lock while there are two changes to the back row with Cam Wilkins and Hugo Solway returning.

In the backs Tom Mitchell switches to outside centre with Dan Rowland suspended following his red card against Albanians while Tom James comes in on the right wing. 

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