Portsmouth captain Greg Hoolihan believes his side’s season is about to take off, starting with their visit to Hove in London south one this weekend.
The city club have lost three of their opening four games but Hoolihan insists the results don’t tell the whole story.
‘The three teams we lost to – Dover, Chichester and Basingstoke – are all title contenders,’ said Hoolihan.
‘The next few weeks are important for us because we have the chance to string a few wins together and spark our season into life.
‘I am looking for a big improvement in the forwards because I thought we allowed Basingstoke to outmuscle us and put us on the back foot.
‘We were a bit overawed by them but, on a positive note, although we played poorly our defence was excellent throughout.
‘Against Hove we will be looking to provide our backs with a lot more ball and get back to playing our running rugby.
‘It won’t be easy because, although we completed the double over Hove last season, both games were tight.
‘I will expect us to come out firing.’
Portsmouth are boosted by the return of regular half-backs Dan Neville and Andy Barnes.
Portsmouth (from): Farmer, Bion, Matini, Lynch, Richardson, Nicholls, Crabb J, Hoolihan, Richards, Neville, Cutler, Masters, Cuming, Duffus, Long, Hankey, Carpenter, Barnes, Rushton