THE RETURN of experienced front-row-forward Sam Cutting is a big boost for Portsmouth ahead of their second round RFU Intermediate Cup tie at Charlton Park (2.30pm).
Portsmouth coach Ian Chandler believes his forwards will have a key role to play – and Cutting’s experience at a higher level could prove crucial.
‘Sam has returned to us from Havant and is a good player,’ said Chandler.
‘He has gained a lot of experience and knows what he is doing.’
The Hilsea-based club go into the cup tie on the back of five successive wins and a good spirit in the camp.
That was evident in the 28-23 league win over Cobham last week, when Portsmouth looked like losing but produced a storming fightback in the last 10 minutes.
Portsmouth achieved that win with a number of senior players missing, and their strength in depth will be tested again this weekend.
Chandler is having to do without three players – Cameron Duffus, Charlie Cutler and Curtis Barnes – who are in the Hampshire under-20 squad for their game at Hertfordshire on Sunday.
‘It is a bitter-sweet pill,’ admitted Chandler.
‘Some clubs might expect them to play but, to be fair to them, we feel it is important to leave them out.
‘We are in the business of helping them further their rugby careers and they have a chance of being noticed with the county side.’
Portsmouth welcome back a number of players determined to push for a senior spot.
Outside-half Dan Neville returns looking to push Andy Barnes for the outside-half spot. Neville has been kept out by injury and work commitments, while centre Ollie Ancell is back from a month’s honeymoon.
Ben Bottleburgh is another player who has impressed in the second team and is waiting to stake his claim.
‘Having so many players gives me a selection headache but it is one I don’t mind,’ said Chandler.
‘The attitude of the players is great and there is a terrific esprit de corps amongst the squad.’
Portsmouth: Harris, Gee, Chandler, Ancell, Blackmore, Neville, Carpenter, Sargent, Hoolihan, Cutting, French I, Richardson, Lamont, Passat, Farmer, French K, Crabb J, Foukes, Bottleberge.