Wimbledon rugby head coach Nick Easter claims the development of his players is more important than promotion as they head into their final six matches.
Easter’s side have shown remarkable improvement since their opening day defeat to Sidcup, having lost just three times all season.
Easter will miss Saturday’s home game against Twickenham as he prepares to win his 50th England cap against Ireland in the Six Nations on Sunday but, despite Wimbledon being favourites to take the London Division South One title, he insists he is more focused on seeing his players develop as individuals.
“The bigger goal is to make the players as good as possible by improving their decision making and enjoying their rugby at the same time,” said Easter.
“We have a good group at the club and some leaders that help drive high standards along with the coaches.
“Availabilities have always been a frustration but it’s to be expected with amateur players.”
Wimbledon lead the division by four points ahead of nearest rivals Chobham, who they lost to last weekend.
They have racked up a nine-match unbeaten run and eight-match winning streak across the season to show their superiority.
Easter admits promotion was part of their season objectives and he says he would be delighted on behalf of his players if they achieved this.
“The goal at the start of the season from an outcome point of view and still is promotion,” he said.
“If the club did get promoted then it’s the players I would feel very happy for as they are the ones putting in the work and performing at weekends.
“But there is a long way to go and one thing I can say is that the rugby played by all teams has improved markedly from the start of the season and you can’t take anything for granted.”
Victory last weekend would have given them a considerable lead in the championship but the last-minute 28-23 defeat threw the title race wide open again.
Easter admits the defeat was hard to take and claims the fight for the top two places will go down to the final day of the season.
“I’m disappointed with the result and the game itself was a typical top-of-the-table affair with pressure at both sides’ set pieces and not much created,” he said.
“We came within four minutes of winning a game away to second place when we only pitched up for 40 minutes, but we are in a good place four points ahead at the top.
“The result now brings a very good chasing pack of Chobham, Sutton & Epsom and Sidcup that little bit nearer and it will go down to the wire with some big meets to come between the top four.”