BOURNEMOUTH'S interim performance director Richard Sharp is expecting "an interesting contest" when Esher come to Chapel Gate on Saturday (3pm), writes Adam Hunter.

The Surrey side - coached by former England and British & Irish Lions back-rower Peter Winterbottom - lost out in a tight relegation battle in National One last season and are looking to bounce straight back up.

Lions hope to make it successive home wins after defeating Westcliff 39-12 a fortnight ago. And Sharp is looking forward to the encounter.

“They have a strong 10-man game, whereas we play a wider and more expansive brand of rugby, so it could be quite an interesting contest,” he said.

“It is about being abrasive on the gain line, and then looking to move the ball wide to our speedsters and make their big boys run around, really tire them out and look to finish the game off in the last 20 minutes.”

Bournemouth will be encouraged by Esher’s results this campaign. The Molesey Road club have struggled on the road, going down in close matches to mid-table Redruth on opening day, and more recently to Bury St Edmunds. Even in their five wins they have shipped 104 points.

Lions coach Jon Sanchez, was tight-lipped about the style of play to expect on Saturday.

“It looks like Esher have been getting dominated at scrum time,” he said.

“If we get into their strike zone we will come away with points.

“We have a Premiership goal kicker (full-back Grant Hancox). If we can buy a penalty from a scrum, the strike zone for us is their 10-metre line and onwards.”

With upheaval within the leadership team in recent weeks, Sharp is keen to stress that embedding the new coaches and new ideas will take a little time.

“We are still going through a period of readjustment, and that definitely comes with some friction,” he admits.

Sanchez added: “We are not the finished article, but the boys are buying into the philosophies and the culture we are trying to achieve and that is showing in the training paddock.

“Now it is time to deliver on the pitch, and that starts this week.”

Lions’ new-look coaching team are delighted to welcome experience back into the XV for Saturday’s clash.

Mike Davis returns to the front-row in place of Tom Napier, a move designed in part to counter Esher’s size up front.

The home team also welcome towering ball carrier second-row Sam Knott back to second-row.

Back-row Toby Kenneally completes his comeback after a lengthy absence with injury, starting at blind-side flanker.

Fly-half Mike Pope continues his recovery from concussion sustained against Westcliff, so local boy Danny Kirkpatrick comes in for his first start in the 10 jersey.

“We are really excited to see Danny with Sammy Hardcastle and Scott Chislett either side of him,” said Sharp.

“This could be the start of something big for him, and a chance to cement his place in our first team.”

And Sharp rejects the notion that the regular changes in key positions are unsettling the players.

He said: “These are all experienced first-team players at Bournemouth who bring different unique attributes to the squad on a Saturday. This is a very strong first XV.”

With upwards of 50 players at training and in contention for a place in the matchday squad, Sharp feels there is depth and competition for places that will only spur the players on.

“There is such strength in depth, and the club is just buzzing at the moment," he said.

“We’ve got a lot of hungry players coming back into the first XV and bringing a lot of experience with them, so it’s going to be an absolute humdinger on Saturday.”