Chandler wants winning start on return

Ian Chandler
Ian Chandler
Havant full-back Ben Chambers. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (181102-1)

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Returning coach Ian Chandler is hoping for a winning start as Portsmouth open their London two south-west campaign against Old Alleynians at Rugby Camp (3pm).

The long-serving Portsmouth coach had a year out last season, spending his time extending his experience under the mentorship of Brian Saunders at United Services.

Chandler has been coaxed back to the city club, however, with Saunders also becoming involved.

Portsmouth endured a disappointing campaign last year, spending most of the season in and around the relegation zone.

A whole host of injuries didn’t help their cause but Chandler believes the club are better equipped this season to deal with any similar problems.

‘We have recruited some good players and had others return to the club,’ said Chandler.

‘Last season selection was down to which players were available, but now there is far more competition for places.

‘Players will have to play well to keep their places.

‘We now have a good set of three-quarters, which was an area of perceived weakness last year.

‘A good pre-season saw us win two of our three friendlies.’

Chandler, surprisingly, was particularly pleased with the 20-5 defeat at Crowborough.

‘Losing took some of the helium out of their balloon and hopefully lessons will have been learned,’ said Chandler.

The city club expect to give debuts to outside-half Rich Higgins, who has played National League rugby with Chester, centre Tom Cantwell and back-row forward Harry Wilson.

Cantwell has switched from United Services, while Wilson is returning from Cardiff University where he played for a good Medics side.

There are also a couple of new faces on the replacements bench in centre Greg Jensen and prop-forward Tom Smith.

The club have not been totally immune from injury problems, however, and start the season without three key players.

Lee Chandler (ankle), Curtis Barnes (shoulder) and Rich Farmer (ankle) are all missing.

‘I think we will improve on last season and will look to be at the top end of the league,’ said Chandler.

Meanwhile, promoted Fareham Heathens and Petersfield mark their return to Hampshire One with home games.

Heathens welcome Bognor to Cams Alders and Petersfield entertain Farnborough.