Richards ready to step up Portsmouth RFC’s pre-season preparations

Portsmouth RFC head coach Gareth Richards was this week preparing to step up his squad’s pre-season preparations.

Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 1:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 1:10 pm
New head coach Gareth Richards in action for Portsmouth during his playing days. Pic: Neil Marshall.

The players have been non-contact training for around a month in groups of six, but this week were beginning some conditioning work.

‘We’ve only offered some skills-based sessions so far,’ said Richards, who replaced Neil McRoberts as head coach at the end of last season.

‘It’s been difficult so far, because we don’t know when the season’s going to start.

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‘We don’t want to peak too early before it starts, and players can also lose motivation if there’s a 12-16 week pre-season.

‘So far we’ve tried to meet them halfway and only offered some skills sessions. They’ve been well received - we’ve had over 50 players each week.’

Armed with his new responsibilities, Richards has been left slightly frustrated that he has yet been unable to really get down to serious training ahead of 2020/21.

‘I’ve been here 10 or 11 years,’ he said. ‘But we also have some newer coaches and they are desperate to get started. They wanted to get to know the players really quickly, but they haven’t been able to do that as quickly as they would have liked.’

The News reported yesterday that Havant’s 2020/21 London & SE Premier division has been split into two conferences based on geography.

They will play the nearest clubs to them home and away in an initial block of games, and the rest of the teams in two other blocks. How many matches they end up playing will depend on when the season starts.

Portsmouth RFC’s London 3 South West division has also been split into two groups by the governing body.

Richards appreciates the logic shown. ‘It’s a sensible approach,’ he said. ‘If they end up with further lockdowns it will be easier for us playing county-wide games rather than going in and around the London area.’

Portsmouth’s mini group includes the other five Hampshire clubs in the division - Petersfield, Trojans, Basingstoke, Andover and Alton.

The other conference includes Old Emanuel, Old Cranleighans, Old Walcountians, Warlingham, Weybridge Vandals and Old Georgians.

A second six-week block gives Portsmouth games against the teams in the other group, and the third six-week block sees the reverse fixtures.

At present, Portsmouth’s first block of 10 games is due to start on September 26, running through to December 5.

Their level is due to start three weeks after Havant’s London & SE Premier campaign. So if Havant lift the curtain on their league games on October 10, Portsmouth would not begin until the end of that month.

In the Hampshire Premier, Gosport & Fareham, newly relegated from the London Leagues, are grouped with Havant 2nds, Chichester 2nds, Sandown & Shanklin, Bognor and Alresford.

The other group includes Locksheath, New Milton, Millbrook, Ellingham & Ringwood, Fordingbridge and Eastleigh 2nds.

US Portsmouth are returning to league action in 2020/21 in Hampshire 1.

The club were forced to withdraw from London 3 SW just before Christmas last year, but have regrouped under director of rugby Nick Parker and re-entered league rugby at two levels lower than they were previously playing at.

US Portsmouth’s mini group also includes Portsmouth 2nds, Fareham Heathens, Southampton University Hospitals, Ventnor and Isle of Wight.

Romsey, Fawley, Tottonians 2nds, Gosport & Fareham 2nds, Farnborough and Overton are in the other group.

Both Hampshire divisions will work on the same basis as the higher leagues - one initial block of home and away games in their group followed by two blocks of games against the teams in the other group.