United Services looking to future ahead of crunch clash

Simon Burns
Simon Burns
Dylan Raubenheimer. Picture: Ian Hargreaves

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A mouth-watering Hampshire One clash is on the cards at Burnaby Road as third-placed United Services Portsmouth play host to fourth-placed visitors Millbrook.

Services beat leaders Fordingbridge in their last outing.

Now they are determined to hand out the same treatment to their closest rivals to further strengthen their promotion ambitions.

Newly-appointed director of rugby Simon Burns believes his side can gain revenge for an earlier defeat at the hands of the visitors – but is more concerned with the bigger picture.

Burns recently left the Navy and has been given the full-time job of promoting and developing rugby at the historic club.

‘It is an exciting opportunity for me and I am proud and privileged to be part of it,’ said Burns.

‘One thing this club has always had is spirit and that is vital at any club.

‘There is a wonderful tradition here and the facilities are first-rate.

‘My job will be to get Navy players back playing at the club, along with strengthening links with the university and schools.

‘The aim will be to get people playing and enjoying the whole experience at the club.

‘It is about going out there in games and training, knowing that the players next to you are going to give it their all.

‘This season is all about development and we are not specifically looking for promotion.

‘If it happens then we will take it and make the most of it.’

Burns turned back the years when he donned the shirt again to help his side in the defeat of Fordingbridge, capping a fine display with a try.

The veteran insists, though, that his return to the starting line-up was unlikely to become a regular appearance.

Against Millbrook, Burns is happy to sit on the replacements’ bench, with Navy diver Mark Humberstone returning to take his place.

Services will have to do without wing-forward Gareth Jones who broke his hand playing for the Royal Navy against Oxford University in midweek.

Navy outside half Wayne John returns alongside centre Mark Hoskin who replaces Tom Willoughby because of the latter’s head injury.

‘Millbrook beat us earlier in the season and they were the better side on the day,’ said Burns.

‘We made a couple of errors and it cost us.

‘It is always tough against Millbrook and I don’t see this game being any different.

‘Against Fordingbridge, we closed them down.

‘And we didn’t let them play before imposing our own game on them.

‘We must look to try to do the same to Millbrook.’