Derby contest will be a great Portsmouth spectacle

Last year United Services and Portsmouth met under lights in the Hampshire bowl quarter-final. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Last year United Services and Portsmouth met under lights in the Hampshire bowl quarter-final. Picture: Habibur Rahman
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United Services Portsmouth and Portsmouth are fired up for their London three south west showdown at Burnaby Road on Saturday (3pm).

Both teams have lost just once this season and are challenging at the top of the league.

When the two sides met in the Hampshire Cup last season it was Portsmouth who came out on top.

Services player-coach Rich Neil is hoping for a big crowd to ensure the atmosphere is excellent on Saturday.

He insists his team has improved since the last meeting when they met under the lights on a Friday night.

He said: ‘When we last met we had not long taken over at the club.

‘We have now had just over a year together and we are in a much better position.

‘Our results in the higher league after being promoted suggests that.

‘We are not quite the finished article yet with areas to improve.

‘It is going to be a tough game and down to who handles the occasion the best.

‘I think there is more pressure on our opponents than us.’

Services, who are unbeaten since the opening day of the season, had an excellent win at Warlingham in their last game.

Warlingham inflicted the only defeat of the season so far on Portsmouth.

Portsmouth coach Neil McRoberts is excited by the prospect of taking on Services in the city.

He said: ‘Games like this are great for the area and can capture the local rugby imagination.

‘With both teams going well it should be a great spectacle.

‘The only thing separating us in the league is they have been better at picking up bonus points.

‘Last season was the first competitive fixture between the two clubs for many years.

‘A lot of the players know each other and have played in different teams together.

‘Though it is a big game we have been doing our best to treat it just like any other.

‘It is important that the players play the game rather than the occasion.

‘Our focus has to be on what is needed to win the game.

‘Neither side can afford to get too tied up with thinking about bragging rights though it would be good to keep them.

‘We need to snuff out their strengths and play to ours.

‘Being a derby the game is bound to have an added edge to it.

‘The team that wins will be the one that handles the pressure best on the day.’

Louis Bristol returns to the Portsmouth pack after injury providing added experience and power.

Lee Chandler and Jordan Humphries come into the three-quarters.