Chandler: Cup clash is last on list of priorities

Portsmouth's Tom Hankey is set to return to Ian Chandler's side
Portsmouth's Tom Hankey is set to return to Ian Chandler's side
Luke Simmons slides in for the opening try. Picture: Neil Marshall (171730-1)

Portsmouth closing in on Twickenham dream

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PORTSMOUTH are hoping to put their league problems behind them as they travel to Southampton University in the Hampshire Cup (3pm).

After suffering three consecutive London two south west defeats, the Rugby Camp club will look upon the cup tie as welcome relief.

Coach Ian Chandler wants his players to use the occasion as an opportunity to recharge their batteries before returning to more pressing matters in the league.

‘I am not interested in the result because the cup is the least of our priorities,’ said Chandler.

‘All I want to happen is for the players to go out and enjoy themselves.

‘I want to see them playing with a smile on their face again.

‘From my point of view, this game should be about the players having a good time.

‘We will be able to try out a few things because, in my eyes, it is nothing more than a glorified training game.

‘Having said that, we won’t be taking Southampton University lightly because they have already beaten Portsmouth University, who have some good players.’

Portsmouth started the current campaign keen to make an immediate return to London one south after the heartbreak of their relegation on the final day of last season.

Three early-season defeats, though, have dented that confidence, leaving Portsmouth in the unenviable position of fourth from bottom in the league table.

Chandler insists their situation isn’t irretrievable and still expects his young side to be challenging at the top come the business end of the season.

‘The squad is more than good enough to do well at this level,’ said Chandler.

‘In two of the defeats we should have won but, unfortunately, we have got into the habit of losing close games.

‘Last week we were well beaten at Effingham & Leatherhead and there was a slight cause for concern with our lack of confidence.

‘In the next few weeks we have a few players coming back, including a few leaders on the pitch who we have badly missed.’

Tight-head prop Tom Hankey has recovered from back problems and will bolster the scrummage, while a host of other absentees return for the cup tie.

Wingers Steve Gee and Alex Duffus, scrum-half Cameron Duffus, full-back Curtis Barnes and back-row forward Richie Farmer are all back.

PORTSMOUTH: Barnes C, Duffus, Carpenter, Chandler, Gee, Barnes A, Duffus C, Hankey, Houlihan, Sargeant, French I, Richardson, Long, Farmer, French K, Lamont, Foukes.