Portsmouth wary of unknown quantity

Portsmouth director of rugby Jim Pearce. Picture: Neil Marshall (171124-24)
Portsmouth director of rugby Jim Pearce. Picture: Neil Marshall (171124-24)
Alex Duffus. Picture: Neil Marshall (171124-172)

Portsmouth challenged to take off after rocket

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Portsmouth put their unbeaten home record on the line when they host Battersea Ironsides in London three south west tomorrow (2pm).

Jim Pearce admits the visitors are a bit of an unknown to his side.

The club’s director of rugby insists Portsmouth must start the game in top gear.

Pearce said: ‘This is the first time we have ever played them.

‘We are unbeaten at home and must look to keep that going.

‘Battersea are only a point behind us, so it won’t be an easy game.

‘We have to make sure we start well and execute what we are good at.’

Luke Peters makes his first start of the season on the wing for the Rugby Camp outfit.

Jordan Cracknell replaces the unavailable Rob Gicquel in the second row and Gareth Fitzpatrick comes in for the injured Rhys Bowen.

Meanwhile, unbeaten Hampshire one leaders United Services host fourth-placed Fordingbridge.

Richard Neil is relishing the game at Burnaby Road.

The United Services coach said: ‘This is our last fixture before we’ve played everyone, so it’s the last time we won’t know what we’re up against.

‘This game is massively important and it is one we need to win.

‘The feeling in the camp is that we are ready to face the challenge.’

Hampshire two pace-setters Locks Heath Pumas head into their clash against Southampton with a fully-fit squad available.

Pumas are undefeated in the league this campaign and Al Palmer is set to return to steward his side.

The head coach has been pleased by the impact of his younger players, who have stepped up to the plate this term.

Palmer said: ‘The squad has shown great character in maintaining our winning streak – despite having big numbers unavailable over the past few weeks.

‘This has meant developing players stepping up and grasping their opportunities.’

Captain Joel Stocker returns at fly-half, with Sam Floyd and Chris Kitson also returning to the back row.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Elsmore and Stuart Miller have forced their way back to the bench as finishers.

Palmer added: ‘This will be our toughest challenge yet.

‘However, we are well prepared and have a full squad to choose from.’

On Sunday, second-placed Portsmouth Valkyries entertain Rosslyn Park at Rugby Camp in Women’s National Challenge south-east west division.