Andre Bester says his Rotherham Titans are still only in the ‘infancy’ of their development, despite a five-match unbeaten run putting them on the cusp of the title chase.
Rotherham welcome Championship leaders Bristol today having already claimed the scalps of Leeds, Bedford and London Welsh this season.
And while Bester still regards Bristol as one of the biggest clubs in the country, he is not getting carried away with the significance of what a victory over them would mean.
“We are comfortable with where we are,” said Bester, whose side are fifth, six points behind Bristol.
“Losing to London Scottish and Plymouth earlier this season was part of the process and you need to experience that to grow as a team. We are still in the infancy of our development.
“Any pressure or expectation placed on us is only that that we put on ourselves.
“You play rugby to compete against the top sides, to measure yourself against the best.
“And Bristol are top of the league and a big, established club in this country. With their size and support they should be in the top 11 in England.
“But I’ve got a bunch of players aspiring to be at the top end and this is an opportunity to show we belong.”
Diccon Edwards is prioritising a continuation of the gradual improvement in performance of his Leeds Carnegie team when they travel to Bedford.
Leeds have won their last three games, albeit against teams expected to occupy the relegation play-off spots come the end of the regular season, so a trip to Goldington Road will provide a good test of how far they have come.
But despite defeat today potentially opening up a 15-point gap between the two promotion contenders, Edwards said: “We are looking more at our performance than the result itself.
“It has been good to get three wins in a row but we are entering a big period for us with 13 games at all levels in the next eight weeks and we will have a better idea of where we are after that.”
Gareth Denman and Tom Denton return to the starting line-up in place of Mike MacDonald and Dan Hemingway.
Doncaster Knights have the perfect opportunity to bounce back from defeat to Nottingham when they travel to winless Esher.
“Mentally the players weren’t there against Nottingham,” said Knights head coach Brett Davey, who has recalled Latu Makaafi, Alex Brown and Stuart Corsar.
“They’d built themselves up for the game at Bedford on the television the week before and they failed to turn up, so it was a learning experience for us. The aim for us this week is to get back to how we were playing three to four weeks ago.”
Hull City Football Club owner Assem Allam has reached a deal with Hull Ionians to provide financial backing to the National Two North strugglers.
Martyn Thomas, the RFU’s acting chief executive, has insisted England team manager Martin Johnson was never given a deadline to decide whether he would resign in the wake of England’s failed World Cup campaign. Johnson’s contract expires at the end of the year.