Cruickshanks backs Smith to help Esher bounce back

Esher centre Arran Cruickshanks has backed new head coach Ollie Smith to lead the club back into the Championship, writes Muhammed Sher.

Cruickshanks officially committed himself to the club’s National Division One campaign next season on Wednesday after fellow centre Tom Cheeseman had signed a similar one-year deal 24 hours earlier.

The 25-year-old, who doubles up as the club’s community development officer, came to Molesey Road two years ago from Championship outfit Plymouth Albion.

And, after watching former director of rugby Mike Schmid move upstairs to become Esher’s first chief executive, he admitted Smith’s presence was a factor in his decision to stay.

“There’s always questions, worries and uncertainty whenever there is a change in the coaching staff as players don’t really know how that person, or their staff, will take to them,” he said.

“I was the same when Mike’s position changed and it was very much a waiting game to see who would be appointed. However, as soon as Ollie was officially given the job, it was a no brainer. He’s a good person, a good coach and he’ll definitely give everything to his players and the club.

“I want to play in the Championship again, at least, and I believe that Esher can do that on a regular basis.

“We’re certainly going to be looking to bounce back straight away and if we can keep the core from last year, which looks likely, we should be very competitive.”

Smith, who will make his debut as head coach at Fylde on September 1, admitted keeping the likes of Cruickshanks was crucial to making a swift return to the second tier of English rugby.

“Arran is a quality player and there would have been someone come in for him had we not acted quickly,” he added.

“He will be key for us. Together with Tom Cheeseman and Jonny Hylton, he’ll form the crux of our back division and I really look forward to working with all three men.

“There are one or two new faces also in the pipeline.”

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