Bragging rights up for grabs in derby clash
Havant are determined to regain the south-coast bragging rights as they host Gosport & Fareham in London One South at Hooks Lane (3pm).
The home side have a point to prove after suffering a heavy defeat at Gosport in the opening weeks of the season.
Coach, Will Knight believes his team have improved since then and are ready to exact their revenge.
‘We didn’t play well at all at Gosport and in many ways that was the low point of our season,’ said Knight.
‘Since then we have worked exceptionally hard and the players have taken more ownership both on and off the field.
‘There is a sense of quiet confidence about where we are heading.
‘We must look to build on the positives from our game against Tottonians where we played some outstanding rugby at times.
‘Over the years, though, we have learned that we have to be at our best against Gosport or they will come and do a job on us.
‘The players understand that and hopefully will respond accordingly.
‘It is a local derby and there is a great rivalry and respect between the two clubs.
‘A number of the players have grown up competing against each other since the age of seven.’
Jerome Trail returns at hooker after being away with the Hampshire under-20s which means Steve Cruddas moves to the back row.
Joe Davis is unavailable but the home side are able to field a completely unchanged three-quarter line.
Since beating Havant, Gosport’s fortunes have nose-dived and they find themselves in the bottom three of the league.
Fortunately the Rugby Football Union’s decision to uphold the relegation of fourth-placed Medway for administrative irregularities looks like offering them a reprieve.
Senior coach Neil McRoberts is optimistic his side can complete the league double over their hosts.
‘Form goes out of the window in this local derby,’ said McRoberts.
‘We have never beaten Havant at Hooks Lane which shows the difficulty of our task.
‘It is the game that everyone always looks for in the calendar and the two sides have enjoyed some great battles over the years.
‘We gave them a good beating at our place but that won’t count for anything.
‘Our last win seems a little while ago now but our performance against Brighton was very encouraging.
‘If we can repeat that level of performance and refine a few other areas then we will give ourselves a chance.
‘We are feeling upbeat going into the game and are ready to go there and get stuck in.’
The visitors are boosted by the return of a number of experienced players including combative scrum half Wes Dugan.
Dugan has completed the ban he received for his sending off against Tottonians.
In the forwards Ben Lanigan returns in the front row, Max Page and Tim Snowden from injury.
The influential figure of Chris Thompson is available again at number eight.
Havant: Darren Bamford, Pat Gains, Ben Brierley, Joel Knight, Loz Blackburn, Jake Hewitt, Dave Sweeney, Jack Ward-Golden, Jerome Trail, Luke Marks, Ross Parkin, Luke Barfoot, Steve Cruddas, Graeme Butterworth, Gav Hart.
Replacements: Justin Powell, Liam Mellor, Grant Morris.
Gosport & Fareham: Tom Lewis, Dave Cleary, Kieran McRoberts, Jordan Humphries, Rory Penfold, Sam Foster, Wes Dugan, Ben Lanigan, Caleb Kingi, Nathan Titchener, Mark Pollard, Max Page, Ben Roberts, Chris Thompson, Tim Snowden.
Replacements: Freddie O’Toole, Ben Madigan, Levi Hui Hui.