Esher skipper Ian Kench believes team spirit and the return of Mike Schmid as director of rugby can see his side mount a National Divisino One title challenge this term.

The Molesey Road outfit under coaches Ricky Nebbett, Craig Chalmers and Chris Kibble finished a disappointing six th in the table last term, despite having won nine of their opening 10 games.

Schmid’s return sees the coaching triumvrate remain as do a host of last season’s squad and that continuity should help the club get off to an equally good start.

Heavily-backed Ealing Trailfinders, freshly relegated from the Cham,pionship, will start the season as title favourites - particularly following the signing of Esher star Luke Daniels.

But Kench, who takes his side to London Scottish for a pre-season friendly this weekend, insisted a wealth of spirit can compete with the financial clout of their rivals.

“Money is a great thing and you can go and buy wonderful players, but it still requires somebody to knit that squad together and get them to gel,” said the 27-year-old.

“You can have the best players in the world but if they don’t gel, if they don’t want to play for each other and are not singing off the same hymn sheet, it doesn’t matter.

"It's crucial that you have 15 boys who want to play for each other. Hopefully we can create an ethos where you are really pulling for each other.

“In the last two years we’ve seen a lot of chopping and changing with Ollie [Smith] coming in and now Craig, but I always like to take the positives.

“We’ve now learnt how Craig coaches, we knew how Nebs coaches, Mike was coach when I arrived and is back to oversee everything so the boys know what these guys are like.

“We have a clear vision and structure of who’s in charge. It seems a lot more settled and everyone’s buying into the ethos of the club.

“Last year we had a strong pack with some good backs but we didn’t manage to marry the two together. Now we are working on playing as a 15.”

Kench himself is hoping for an injury-free campaign after being sidelined for three months, having suffered a serious shoulder injury.

He was forced to watch as Esher only won nine of their last 17 games to finish well adrift of the title race.

And Kench is ready for better this time around.

“It was hard last year. I thought I had a pretty good start to the season but then my pec went,” he added.

“It was a one-off injury. My shoulder went into a position which it shouldn’t go into. It was pretty hard to watch the team struggle then. We went into a dark spell when we went into a tough run of games and we struggled, so for me as captain it was quite hard to watch.

“But then getting back for the end of the season has given me a boost in the fact I know the shoulder and the pec is fine now and I’ve had a good pre-season so touch wood, I’m fit and ready.”