Portsmouth are determined there will be no hangover from last season’s relegation as they start life in London two south against London Cornish at Rugby Camp tomorrow (3pm).
The club were left devastated when an injury-time try sent them down in the final game of last season.
Relegation was a huge disappointment as it meant Portsmouth will miss out on derbies against Havant, Basingstoke and Gosport & Fareham this term.
But coach Ian Chandler insists the club and players have put events of last season firmly behind them as they look forward to a new start.
‘The players and the coaches have done a lot of soul searching,’ admitted Chandler.
‘We all know that first and foremost we let ourselves and the club down following our relegation.
‘At the start of last season we expected to easily be a mid-table side but were then hit by a horrific injury list.
‘Up until the third minute of stoppage time in the final game we were still safe.
‘Then we conceded the try that saw us relegated.
‘But we have put all that behind us now and are determined to put things right.’
Portsmouth have recruited well during the summer while maintaining a local flavour in their squad.
The Morgan brothers – Matt at number eight and scrum-half Chris – have arrived from Havant, along with second-row Alex Lamont from their Academy.
Another big plus has been the arrival of second-row Mark Reddin who has played National League rugby in Scotland. In addition, Matt Farmer has returned from his travels, while Dan Sargent is back from a spell with Portsmouth’s sister club in New Zealand.
‘We feel we are missing out not being at the same level as our big local rivals,’ said Chandler.
‘There is a determination to get back up there at the first attempt because that is where we want to be.
‘We want the cut and thrust of the big derbies.
‘It is important we make a good start but we don’t know a lot about London Cornish as it is the first time the two clubs have met.
‘We want to put a marker down right from the start.
‘We must learn the lessons from last season and grind out wins in tight games.
‘We are very proud of the fact that 15 of the 18 players in our squad this weekend have come through local Academy set-ups.’
Portsmouth: Tom Whitehouse, Curtis Barnes, Gareth Richards, Will Carpenter, Dylan Akamune-Miles, Andy Barnes, Chris Morgan, Harry Cripps, Greg Houlihan, Tom Hankey, Matt Reddin, Rob Griquel, Rich Farmer, Adam Long, Matt Morgan
Replacements: Dan Sargeant, Alex Lamont, Titch O’Connor