All change for champs in last-four derby duel

Toby Woodford is back for Gosport & Fareham this weekend Pic: Roger Smith.
Toby Woodford is back for Gosport & Fareham this weekend Pic: Roger Smith.
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Tom Whitehouse. Picture: Neil Marshall (171730-81)

Pearce fires warning to triumphant Portsmouth

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Gosport & Fareham are forced to ring the changes as they look to defend their Hampshire Cup crown in a semi-final derby clash against Havant at Gosport Park tomorrow (3pm).

The two sides met at the same stage last season, with Gosport & Fareham pulling off a surprise 24-20 win.

They went on to cause another shock by beating Basingstoke 23-19 in the final at Down Grange.

But Mark Wells’ team may find it more difficult this time around as they go into the game with a depleted line-up.

Seven players are unavailable and the head coach also makes four other changes from the side which lost to Wimbledon in London two south west last week.

‘We are not able to field our strongest team and that will make it difficult,’ admitted Wells.

‘Despite that I am a big supporter of Hampshire rugby and there was never any temptation of pulling out.

‘The cup is not as important to us as the league but we got a lot of joy from the competition last season.

‘It is only right that we should defend our crown.

‘Havant have just been relegated so they will view gaining some silverware as an important part to the end of their season.

‘They are also two leagues above us and are used to playing at a higher level.’

Last season, Gosport & Fareham won the game in a dramatic finale that saw Havant skipper Chris Thompson sin-binned, with Alex Duncombe kicking the resulting penalty.

Then, in the final two minutes, Sam Foster went over for the winning try.

This season, Thompson finds himself in the Gosport & Fareham ranks up against his old team-mates at Havant.

Winger Sammy Speight, centre Christian Jones, Thompson, Toby Woodford and Ash Burton all come back into the line-up for Gosport & Fareham.

Havant, whose defeat at Luton last week confirmed their relegation from National League rugby at the end of the season, will be keen to get a positive result.

Director of rugby Will Knight has had a difficult campaign but worked hard to get an improved structure in place at Hooks Lane.

Relegation has been on the cards for a while and came as no surprise.

Havant are determined to come back stronger in the future, though, and a successful cup campaign would give them an end-of-season fillip.

‘We see the cup as an important part of our rebuilding for next season,’ said team manager Rob Matthews.

‘A number of players aren’t available but we are fielding the strongest side we can.’

Gosport & Fareham: Vance, Speight, C Jones, Foster, Jones, Duncombe, Wes Dugan, Burton, Clark, Pickett, Woodford, Thompson, Madigan, Snowden, Flower, Whitehead, Titchener, Moggeridge

Havant: Living, Robinson, Morris, Read, Blackburn Loz, Southall, L Davenport, Marks, Austin, Elsmore, Parkin, Francis, Barfoot, White, Burgess-Kelly, Fenn, Cutting, Porter, Belman, Claffey, Tomlinson, Osborne