Gosport & Fareham are delighted to have captain Tim Snowden back as they host Maidstone in London One South at Gosport Park tomorrow (3pm).
The team skipper has been ruled out so far this season by a groin injury and his presence has been badly missed.
Senior coach Neil McRoberts is convinced the return of their talismalic back-row forward can help the Blue & Golds kick-start their campaign.
‘Having someone of Tim’s ability back in the team is massive for us,’ said McRoberts.
‘He is a huge influence both on and off the pitch and it is good to have him back at the helm.
‘There are few players at our level better than him at turning ball over at the breakdown.
‘He makes a real nuisance of himself to opponents in those situations.
‘His strength in the tackle is also a big plus for us.
‘Most of all, though, he is an intelligent and articulate rugby player who is good at getting his point across to the other players.
‘Wes Dugan has done well in his absence, so now we have two leaders out there.’
The home side head into the game needing a win to propel themselves away from the bottom of the league.
They have won just one of their opening five games and are currently second from bottom – four points above basement-club Twickenham.
Their one success came at Gosport Park against Chiswick, and McRoberts is looking for his team to make the most of home comforts once again.
He knows that newly-promoted Maidstone will present them with a physical challenge up front.
The two sides met in a classic play-off encounter two seasons ago, with the Blue & Golds edging to a 15-13 win to gain promotion.
The front five will have a key role to play if the home side are to subdue the visitors and provide a platform for their talented three-quarters.
‘This is a game where we will need to knuckle down from the start,’ said McRoberts.
‘It will be physical, aggressive and confrontational from the outset and you can expect some big collisions.
‘We have a pretty sizeable pack who are capable of taking anyone on.
‘Even in the games we have lost, we have often been the better side up front.
‘We have to make sure that when we get ourselves into good attacking positions we come away with some points.’
The home side are without props Tom Blackburn and Ben Lanigan but are still very strong in that area.
Ex-Havant player Justin Powell and New Zealander Caleb Kingi have both been outstanding performers in recent games.
The re-appearance of veteran Mark Pollard alongside Royal Navy under-23 player Ben Roberts will also boost the line-out.
With number eight Chris Thompson unavailable, Sean Shepherd moves across to fill that spot.
Gosport & Fareham: Jack Brawn, Dave Cleary, Sam Foster, Levi Hui Hui, Alex Cooksley, Kieran McRoberts, Wes Dugan, Danny Gamblin, Caleb Kingi, Justin Powell, Mark Pollard, Ben Roberts, Dan Turner, Sean Shepherd, Tim Snowden. Replacements: Freddie O’Toole, Ben Madigan, Rory Penfold