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Burton rugby chief piles the pressure on table-topping Lichfield

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: November 17, 2013

FLYING HIGH . . . Burton have lost just one game all season in Midlands One West, and are eight points behind leaders Lichfield as the season moves towards the halfway point

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MIDLANDS One West leaders Lichfield have ‘everything to lose’ according to Burton’s director of rugby Steve Smith.

The table-toppers have yet to drop a point, with an unblemished copybook of 10 wins from 10.

Burton are eight points adrift, with their only loss coming against Lichfield back in October at Peel Croft.

“Lichfield, for me, are the best side in the league and have everything to lose,” said Smith. “Realistically, ourselves, Hereford and one or two others are playing for second place.

“Lichfield would have to lose twice, and having not lost all season are clearly a very good side.”

Smith has not discounted the Crofters’ chances however, and believes their best XV is equal to anything Midlands One West has to offer.

“If we get our strongest squad out we are a match for anyone,” the director of rugby said. “For the Lichfield game we had eight players missing.

“If we had our strongest 18 out against Lichfield I’d fancy our chances.”

Second place would mean a promotion play-off against the runners-up in Midlands One East.

Smith knows there is still a lot of rugby still to be played, but if the current standings remain the same, that would pit Burton against Derby.

He said: “That would be an interesting end to the season!

“We are in a good position. But we’re only one or two bad games away from being in a mediocre position.

“We will take each game as it comes.”

Burton’s hopes and expectations have risen considerably since the start of the current campaign.

Smith said: “We targeted a top four finish, so we have exceeded our expectations.

“Coming into the season we’d lost a few players who went on to play at a higher level. We have done really well so far.”

Burton made a number of backroom changes over the summer.

Former Wasps forward Nick Adams was appointed forwards coach, while Tom Barlow took over as head coach after two years tutoring the backs.

The Crofters also created the new director of rugby role. But Smith credits the players for the upsurge in form.

He said: “A lot of the players are maturing. They’re 20, 21, 22 now. Last year they were quite inexperienced.

“A lot of the credit is also down to Josh Cartwright’s leadership – and some of the younger lads stepping up to the plate.

“They’re all older and more physical. Will Roach has also made a huge impact and really helped us move forward.”

Even if promotion fails to materialise this year, the future is bright says Smith.

“Give this side another two years and they will do very, very well in this league – and the league above to be honest,” he said. “We’ve a young squad of 25 to 30 players.

“At some stage we will win this league or go up. We have the strength in depth.”

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