Portsmouth coach Ian Chandler has high hopes his young side can improve on last season’s mid-table finish in London south one, even though they have been given a tough start to the campaign.
The Hilsea club begin with a long trip to Dover, intent on avoiding a repeat of the heavy defeat they suffered at the club last year.
‘We have been given two of our toughest games of the season in the first fortnight,’ said Chandler.
‘But I feel we are 75-per-cent stronger than last year.
‘Our kids are a year older and after last season, know a little bit more of what it is about.
‘Early on last season we were up challenging for third and fourth place but eventually ran out of steam. This time we are still probably not ready to win it but will continue playing our attractive brand of rugby. We are still going to run the ball.’
Portsmouth have adapted their approach, however, with some fundamental changes made in the way they are organised.
Ed Neville has taken over as director of rugby, allowing Chandler to concentrate on the coaching side.
There are no overseas players this season, with the club preferring to invest their money in supporting the playing infrastructure.
Finance which might previously have been used to fund accommodation and travel for overseas players has instead been invested in areas like physiotherapy and well-being of the squad.
Phil Turrell has come in as fitness coach and done a fantastic job and Portsmouth have attracted some new talent. We targeted three players in the summer and all three have joined,’ said Chandler.
‘In the backs, Andy Barnes from Petersfield is at outside half, Gareth Richards from Alton is at centre, while the returning Dan Neville is back from his medical studies to give us genuine quality and proven decision-makers in the key positions.
‘Our forwards have been strengthened, too, with the welcome return of Graham Butterworth and Luke Richardson who, along with new signing Richard Farmer, means it’s shaping up very well.’
Portsmouth: Patrick Bion, Will Brock, Adam Long, Andrew Barnes, Ben Cuming, Dan Neville, Dan Sargent, Gareth Richards, Graham Butterworth, Greg Hoolihan, Jack Hazeldine, James Botten, Luke Richardson, Nick Lynch, Richard Farmer, Tom Hankey, Will Carpenter, Alexander Duffus.