Hampshire ready for date with destiny
Hampshire are just 80 minutes away from turning their Twickenham dream into reality.
They take on Warwickshire at Rugby RFC in the semi-finals of the RFU Championship Shield tomorrow, with a place at England’s home of rugby at stake.
Impressive victories over Dorset & Wilts and Berkshire in the group stage have propelled Hampshire to the brink of glory.
Team manager Simon Burns predicted at the start of the campaign that Hampshire could reach the final and events so far have proved him right.
He still believes his talented squad of local players can go all the way.
‘It has been very pleasing to find a group of players that have gelled so well as a team,’ said Burns.
‘When I agreed to take on the role of leading the county side I had three main aims.
‘First of all, I wanted the team to progress through the group stage into the knock-out phase.
‘I also wanted to re-invigorate the selection process to have a core nucleus of 30 players based around the clubs in the area.
‘In addition, I hoped to create a sense of ownership by the players helping to create a Club Hampshire identity.
‘So far we have made progress on all three fronts.
‘The difference this year has been the presence of clear aims.’
Burns helped his cause by putting together a strong team of coaches and support staff.
This included experienced coaches Ian Chandler, Will Knight, Neil McRoberts, Dylan Raubenheimer along with Rob Batley Chris Jones, Dave Lewis and Suzie-Le Voi.
Their vision was then shared with the selected players who all committed to be available for all the games.
Burns felt from the start when Hampshire put in a terrific performance in losing to the Royal Navy in a warm-up game that the team were capable of doing something special.
That was further emphasised when they smashed Dorset & Wilts 44-13 in their opening group game.
Gosport & Fareham’s Wayne Dugan claimed a hat-trick of tries as the rampant hosts put the visitors to the sword.
When Hampshire demolished Berkshire 46-0 in their second game, it was then the turn of tricky Tottonians’ outside-half Pierre-Alex Clark to claim a try hat-trick.
Burns, however, will be the first to say that Hampshire’s success so far has been down to a real team ethic.
The forwards have provided a solid platform for the talented three-quarters to fully utilise their talents.
‘If we are to beat Warwickshire we will need to be disciplined and not allow ourselves to get into an arm wrestle with their big physical pack of forwards,’ said Burns.
‘We must look to keep playing the expansive rugby that has got us here.’
Hampshire: Alex Sutherland (Bournemouth), Wayne Dugan (Gosport & Fareham), Robbie Searle (Tottonians), Joel Knight (Havant), Curtis Barnes (Portsmouth), Pierre-Alex Clark (Tottonians), Wes Dugan (capt) ( Gosport & Fareham), Joe Tarrant (Bournemouth), Ben Allman (Bournemouth), Ken Dowding (Chichester), Ali Ramus (Tottonians), Elliott Worrall (Ivybridge), Joe Rees (Bournemouth), Steve Cruddas (Havant), Gav Hart (Havant).
Replacements: Luke Marks (Havant), Ryan Wilkie Portsmouth), Darren Crabb (Portsmouth), Graham Butterworth ( Havant), Harry Dolbear (Tottonians), Greg Sullivan (Winchester), Luke Chandler (Bournemouth).