IAN CHANDLER rates Club Hampshire’s RFU County Championship encounter against Somerset at Gosport Park tomorrow (3pm) as their toughest assignment in the group stage.
Both teams made a winning start to the competition and with the group winners qualifying for a Twickenham final, there is a lot at stake.
Senior coach Chandler is optimistic about Hampshire’s chances after their impressive demolition job over North Midlands in their opening game.
Hampshire are bidding for a second-successive Twickenham final after winning tier three of the competition last season.
They have taken the step up into tier two in their stride, but Chandler knows Somerset present them with a huge challenge.
He said: ‘Somerset will be a tough proposition because they include a number of players from Taunton Titans, who play in National League division two south.
‘Once again, though, it is a chance to test ourselves against quality opposition.
‘So far, the players have shown they are more than up for it and passed every test with flying colours.
‘I am hoping the Hampshire rugby community will turn out in force.
‘It would be great for the players and Gosport Park can be an intimidating place for the opposition with a big crowd there.
‘It is the highest standard of rugby seen in the area since Havant were playing in the National League.’
The home side are forced make a number of changes, but Chandler believes that shows their strength in depth.
Portsmouth’s Matt Farnes steps in at full-back in place of Alex Sutherland.
At wing-forward, Worthing captain Liam Perkins comes in for last week’s man-of-the-match Kemp Price
Chandler added: ‘Our squad has been together for a couple of years now, and have restored the pride in playing for the county.
‘A lot of credit also has to go to our management team of Rob Batley and Dave Lewis.
‘They have made it possible for us to focus.
The players believe in themselves and their ability to compete at this level.’