Portsmouth out to avoid trouble against Vandals

Adam Long

Adam Long

Dan Sargent scores for Hampshire against Warwickshire. Picture: Keith Woodland (17064-492)

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Portsmouth director of rugby Ed Neville insists the fight for London two south-west survival starts now with the visit of Weybridge Vandals to Rugby Camp (2pm).

The city club start the year third from bottom in the table but are determined to climb out of trouble.

Despite enduring a difficult opening half to their campaign, Portsmouth believe they can head into the closing months with a lot of optimism.

They are convinced they possess enough quality to survive but know a win over the Vandals is crucial.

‘This is a game we are definitely targeting to win, said Neville.

‘When we played them at their place earlier in the season we were disappointed to lose.

‘On that occasion they scored three tries from driving mauls but we feel we are better equipped to deal with that now.

‘We showed against top sides Gosport and Guildford that we can stand up to that tactic.

‘It is important that we are prepared to deal with it from the start and not allow Weybridge to get on the front foot.

‘There is a great belief in the club that we can get ourselves out of this mess.

‘We just need to string a run of wins together and that would move us out of danger.

‘Last season we did just that at this stage and must aim to repeat it.’

The key to success could lie with the in-form Portsmouth back-row forward trio of Adam Long, Will Phillips and Will Brock.

The Portsmouth pack stepped up their game in the weeks before Christmas and it is important they keep that going.

Long is a destructive tackler, fast and strong at the breakdown.

Brock wins a lot of ball on the ground, while Phillips is a big, fast ball carrier.

‘To be fair, we have changed our style in order to play to our forward strengths,’ said Neville.

‘Our forwards have been strong playing a picking up and driving game.

‘The three back-row forwards have worked well as a unit and proved very destructive in the loose.

‘We have also tightened up our set-piece game, with our line-out play being particularly impressive.’

The only set-back is the loss of influential outside-half Dan Neville to a knee injury just before Christmas.

Neville has had a scan and is likely to be out for a few months.

Fortunately, Portsmouth have Lee Chandler prepared to move into the berth, having already deputised when Neville was away with medical duties.

Veteran Tom Radbourne is likely to remain in the centre, and the home side also have the pace of Curtis Barnes at full-back.

‘Though it won’t be the end of the world if we don’t win it is a very important game,’ added Neville.

‘A win would certainly help spark a revival.’

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