Portsmouth aim for knockout success again

Rob Gicque in action. Picture: Mick Young (132664-08)
Rob Gicque in action. Picture: Mick Young (132664-08)
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Portsmouth are aiming for more knockout success as they welcome Sevenoaks to Rugby Camp in the RFU Intermediate Cup tomorrow (1.45pm).

The Norway Road club have been at their best in the cut and thrust of cup rugby in the past year.

Last season they reached the latter stages of the RFU competition – before crowning their campaign by becoming Hampshire Cup champions.

They have already seen off Old Colfeians so far this term and are looking to add another scalp.

The club’s director of rugby Ed Neville also sees the game as a welcome break from the pressures of the league.

Portsmouth have only won once in London two south west so far – and are rooted at the bottom of the table.

The league remains a priority for Neville but he believes the team is also good enough to progress in the cup.

‘This game will give us an opportunity to give a chance to some of the fringe players who have been pushing for a place,’ he said.

‘We can blood some newcomers and at the same time give some of the regulars a chance to rest weary bones.

‘Some of our players have been playing through niggling injuries because they are so committed to the cause.

‘Survival in the league is our main priority but we would also like to do well in the cup.

‘And the side we put out will be more than capable of achieving that.’

Neville is boosted by the return of Rob Gicquel to the forwards after he missed the game at Winchester.

Gicquel has been a driving force this season and he was missed in the 13-11 defeat.

The forward came through the junior ranks of the club and has established himself as a major ball-winner in the line-out.

Neville has been impressed with his progress this season.

‘It is all down to his hard work on the training ground,’ said the director of rugby.

‘His play in the loose has come on leaps and bounds and his body position is now so much better.

‘He was in my Hampshire under-20s side that got to Twickenham a few years ago when he was still under-18.

‘The lad is also capable of adapting to play at number six, eight or lock forward.

‘Our line-out at Winchester was good last week but Rob has the knack of stealing a lot of the opposition’s ball because of his excellent timing.’

Neville is now looking for improvements in his forwards after a disappointing opening 40 minutes at Winchester.

Portsmouth came close to snatching a draw at the death – but a last-kick conversion drifted wide.

Neville said: ‘We played the whole of the second period in the Winchester half and we still don’t know how we didn’t win.’