‘Heart and desire’ can bring Portsmouth closer to Twickenham

Portsmouth are in Vase action
Portsmouth are in Vase action
Portsmouth's Gareth Richards. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (171564-1)

Portsmouth pride despite end of Twickenham dream

Tom Whitehouse. Picture: Neil Marshall (171730-81)

Pearce fires warning to triumphant Portsmouth

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JIM PEARCE reckons it will take heart and desire if Portsmouth are to keep their Twickenham dreams alive.

The director of rugby accepts his side face a difficult task as they travel to Old Cranleighans in the regional semi-finals of the RFU Senior Vase.

A win on Saturday would put them two games from a prestigious final at RFU headquarters.

Surrey-based Old Cranleighans top London three south west and they got a league win over Portsmouth earlier this season.

Pearce, however, believes his team have progressed a lot since that nine-point defeat.

He said: ‘We feel with the greater continuity we now have in the team we have a chance to turn the tables on our opponents.

‘Last time we only lost by nine points when our team lacked consistency in selection.

‘The team we have selected are capable hopefully of going out there and doing the job.

‘It would be a fantastic achievement if we could get to Twickenham.

‘Though that is our long-term goal the focus at present is very much on this game.

‘Our hosts are a typical London Old Boys team. They are young, fit and relentless. We can expect them to keep coming at us.

‘To combat that we have to make sure when we have the ball we keep control of it.

‘That is going to take a lot of heart and desire but I will back our team to show that.’

In the forwards the visitors are boosted by the return of Will Brock at blindside wing-forward.

Brock was rested in the last game due to an ankle problem.

Jack Easterbrook moves back into the second row with Finn Parry retaining his place at loose head prop forward.

There is just one change in the three-quarters with Curtis Barnes replacing Tom Whitehouse on the left-wing.

Portsmouth will be hoping forward Anthony Fooks can continue his prolific try-scoring feats. He scored four tries in one game recently.

Pearce rates him as an excellent finisher with so many good qualities.

He added: ‘Anthony has shown the real heart and desire around the pitch we need.

‘Some of his tries have come from a willingness to support players making their breaks.

‘This is the attitude we want to see running through the whole squad.’

Portsmouth have come out on top in some close-fought games since Christmas, showing their determination to win.

Pearce will be interested to see how Old Cranleighans cope with the pressure they are looking to impose on them.

Portsmouth: Farnes, Simmons, Ovens, Gates, Barnes, Richards, S. Morgan, Parry, Hoolihan, Wilkie, Easterbrook, Leggot, Brock, Fooks, Bowen. Replacements: French, Crabb, L. Chandler, Hunter