Cup is no distraction for Portsmouth

Will Carpenter has been drafted in to the Portsmouth first team line-up. Picture: Mick Young (103625-08)
Will Carpenter has been drafted in to the Portsmouth first team line-up. Picture: Mick Young (103625-08)
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Ian Chandler insists Portsmouth’s RFU Intermediate Cup trip to Chelmsford is not an unwanted distraction for his promotion-chasing side.

The head coach is currently masterminding the Rugby Camp team’s rapid rise up the London two south west table.

After a stuttering start to the season – following relegation from London one south – Portsmouth are now in the shake-up for a rapid return.

But despite league success being the number-one priority, Chandler is refusing to give up on his ambitions of cup glory.

In fact, he is enjoying the shift from the pressure of league action.

And reckons it could prove to be a useful experience come the climax of the campaign.

‘It is a welcome change from league action and we are looking forward to it,’ said the head coach.

‘We have a large squad and the cup games allow us to involve as many as possible.

‘Winning games in a national cup competition brings extra kudos to the club and there is also the incentive of a Twickenham final at the end of it.

‘Promotion is our priority and if we finish second in our league that will mean an end-of-season play-off.

‘Because we have already lost four games this season, if that happened we are likely to find ourselves away from home.

‘Therefore, we can use games like this to help prepare us for such a situation – a one-off game away from Rugby Camp.

‘We can learn some valuable lessons that will stand us in good stead.’

Portsmouth head for Essex in confident mood – having suffered just one defeat in their past 12 games.

But they are still expecting a stern test.

Chelmsford are second in London north west and have a game built around a powerful pack of forwards.

In the past, that is an area where Portsmouth have struggled – traditionally favouring a game revolving around their backs.

This term, though, Chandler and his coaches have worked hard at producing a more all-round combination of play.

He said: ‘The team is playing well at the moment and gaining greater belief in our new style of play – it showed in our good win over Teddington in the league when we refused to let a couple of setbacks get to us.

‘In the past, heads may have dropped but now the team have a confidence in their ability to score and hit back.’

Portsmouth will be boosted by the return of Rich Farmer to their back row.

Meanwhile, Will Carpenter is drafted in at outside-half as Dan Neville and Andy Barnes are both unavailable.

Elsewhere, Simon Burns believes his United Services team will have to fire on all cylinders if they are to get a result at Alton in Hampshire one.

The boss said: ‘If we have any aspirations of finishing in the top three of the league this year, then the next five games will shape our season as we play the top sides in the league.’

Burns himself has dusted off his boots to replace the unavailable Royal Navy prop Mark Humberstone.

Meanwhile, Ben Lanigan returns from holiday and will take the place of the unavailable Luke Osborne.

Services are also pleased to welcome back outside-half Jake Webster from injury.