Portsmouth happy to be underdogs

Ian French Picture: Mick Young
Ian French Picture: Mick Young
Dave Wheaton and the Fareham Heathens. Picture: Neil Marshall (171152-317)

Double trouble for heroic Heathens

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Portsmouth take a break from league action as they entertain Tunbridge Wells in the RFU Intermediate Cup at Rugby Camp (1.45pm).

The game kicks off early in case there is a need for extra-time, and the hosts will start as underdogs against their unbeaten visitors.

The Kent side top their league, which is the south-east equivalent to London two south west where Portsmouth play, with eight straight wins.

Assistant-coach Jim Pearce accepts it will be a tough assignment but insists they can go into it in a positive frame of mind.

‘Until our defeat at Old Reigatians we had won four league games on the bounce,’ said Pearce.

‘We won’t mind the underdogs tag and have already won games in similar situations this season.

‘London Cornish were unbeaten and top of our league when we turned them over.

‘We are pleased with the way our squad is progressing and we have gained more of a winning mentality this season.

‘The players are all working fantastically hard and absorbing what we are doing with them on the training pitch.

‘For us as a coaching team it is all about the level of performance and seeing that improve each game.’

The home side make a number of changes as they have several players returning to action.

In the front row, Ian French comes in at loose-head prop after recovering from a knee injury, and at tight-head Tom Hankey is back after a spell in Australia.

Hankey, who has been playing State championship rugby in Adelaide, comes in for Ryan Wilkie who is rested, along with fellow prop Ben Cumings.

Sam Ellis starts at scrum-half, allowing Simon Morgan to move to outside half in place of the injured Andy Barnes.

Curtis Barnes returns to the wing after injury, with Mark Ovens retaining his place at full-back after some impressive performances.

Captain and number eight Damien Gibbs is given a week off after picking up a slight knock.

‘We have made a few changes but the players coming in are strong replacements,’ added Pearce.