Burns: Don’t blame us

United Services director of rugby Simon Burns. Picture: Dean Kedward (123452-2)
United Services director of rugby Simon Burns. Picture: Dean Kedward (123452-2)
Luke Simmons slides in for the opening try. Picture: Neil Marshall (171730-1)

Portsmouth closing in on Twickenham dream

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United Services have been angered by suggestions they refused to travel to the Isle of Wight on Saturday for their Hampshire one fixture.

The home side’s website declared the game was called off at the ‘opposition’s request’.

Nothing could be further from the truth, according to Services director of rugby Simon Burns.

‘We wanted to play the game and I spent most of Friday getting a strong squad together for it,’ he said.

‘Our only request was for them to make an early judgement on the state of the pitch, so that we didn’t end up making a fruitless journey.

‘The first words from their captain when he spoke to me on Friday were “so you want to call the game off”.

‘I have no idea where he got that from.

‘We wanted him to give us a guarantee that if we travelled the game would take place.

‘With the weather coming in overnight I couldn’t see it, personally.

‘I told them if we did travel over and the game was called off we would be invoicing them for the travel costs.

‘We were prepared to leave it until 9am next morning when we had to book our ferry tickets.

‘Their captain came back to me, though, and called it off that evening.

‘Under no circumstances were we responsible and we even offered to host the game on our 3G pitch if they wanted to come over to us.

‘They were not prepared to do that.’

Services are one of six clubs involved in a second half of the season dogfight for the Hampshire one title and promotion.

Just eight points separate leaders Andover and Services in sixth place.

The Burnaby Road side slipped one place as Farnborough – 27-5 winners over Overton – took advantage of their inactivity.

Burns believes his Services side are capable of doing the business in the closing months, though.

‘If we can win three of our next four games and pick up a bonus point in the other then we can give ourselves a real chance,’ he said.

‘Ideally we can win all four which would be even better.

‘Traditionally Services have struggled in the past after Christmas but this time around we have players coming back at the right time.

‘We have got a good set of backs and if the front five can provide a platform then we will be in with a shout.’

Services expect to be boosted by the return of back-row forwards Bradley Baker and ex-captain Will Blackett.

The former has been sidelined by a shoulder injury, while the latter has been at sea.

Utility back James McEvoy has also rejoined after a short stint at Worthing where he was finishing his PGCE.

The game against Alton next weekend is expected to be switched to the 3G pitch.

That will guarantee the contest going ahead despite any further weather problems.