Portsmouth have belief but rivals United Services will aim to exploit wounds from recent defeats

Portsmouth need to respond to promotion setback. Picture: Duncan Shepherd
Portsmouth need to respond to promotion setback. Picture: Duncan Shepherd
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It is derby time between promotion rivals as Portsmouth host United Services Portsmouth in London three south west on Saturday (2.30pm).

It is the biggest contest between the two teams for some years with so much at stake.

United Services are hoping to exploit Portsmouth's recent pain. Picture: Keith Woodland

United Services are hoping to exploit Portsmouth's recent pain. Picture: Keith Woodland

The third and fourth placed teams are locked together on 59 points and are playing for more than just city bragging rights.

They both know their promotion ambitions are on the line heading into the business end of the campaign.

Neil McRoberts is looking for his Portsmouth side to restore some confidence after two successive defeats.

The head coach said: ‘We don't want to be losing anymore.

‘Despite the two defeats the players are still upbeat.

‘This game has got everything really and we shouldn’t need any extra motivation.

‘It is important we put our last two games behind us and get stuck in from the first whistle.

‘We are expecting a full-blooded affair but that’s how derbies should be.

‘This one has that little bit of added importance for both teams.

‘Though we beat United Services at their place earlier in the season that now counts for nothing.

‘We have to go out and earn the right to beat them again.

‘It is a pressure game and all about who handles it best on the day.

‘The players have to go out and do the business.

‘We need a win to stay ahead of Services and also keep the pressure on the top two clubs.

‘I am expecting it to be an exciting affair and great for local rugby.’

The home side make one change in the forwards with the experienced prop Ben Lanigan coming into the front row.

In the three-quarters Luke Simmons returns to the wing after a two-game absence.

Tom Chance returns at 12 to give Portsmouth a big presence in the centre.

The visitors come into the game on the back of two successive wins.

Player-coach Rich Neil is hoping to exploit the opposition’s fragile confidence.

He said: ‘This is always a big game.

‘I am backing my players to cope and not crumble under the pressure.

‘If we win our last six games we get promoted.

‘We have confidence in our ability and intend to try to keep doing what works for us.

‘There was only one score in it in the first meeting and I am expecting a similar affair.’

Services make one change in the forwards with Alex Smith replacing Billy Rolfe.