Portsmouth won’t fear facing leaders

Portsmouth assistant coach Jim Pearce Picture: Neil Marshall

Portsmouth are forced to field a much-changed side for the visit to London two south west leaders London Cornish tomorrow (2.30pm).

Unavailability and injuries has hit the Rugby Camp hard but assistant coach Jim Pearce remains positive.

He points to last season when his side beat the league leaders on their own patch.

‘London Cornish were in the same position last season when we beat them,’ said Pearce.

‘We can also take a lot of encouragement from when we played them at home earlier this season.

‘With 10 minutes to go we were leading only to concede two late tries and lose.

‘We know this will be a tough task though because they are unbeaten this season.

‘The only blemish on their record is a single draw.

‘Though we are missing a number of players it provides an opportunity for those coming in.

‘We are still able to field a pack of forwards containing a number of big units.

‘Having said that we are not going up there for a forward’s arm wrestle.

‘We want to run the ball around to express and enjoy ourselves.’

Up front, prop-forward Greg Houlihan is unavailable so Jackson Clark moves across from hooker.

In turn Ian French occupies the vacant prop forward position.

Captain, Luke Richardson is unavailable through work commitments and is replaced by Jack Easterbrook.

Open-side wing forward James Kelly faces a fitness test on his injured ankle.

There are further changes in the three-quarters.

Andy Barnes starts at outside half with Dan Gates back in the centre.

Curtis Barnes and Rich Higgins take the wing slots with Tom Whitehouse and Luke Peters away.

Pearce said: ‘We still need a couple of wins to make sure we are safe.

‘We want to get something from the next two games to give us some momentum going into our big cup-tie in a fortnight’s time.’

Portsmouth visit Charlton Park in the regional semi-finals of the RFU Intermediate Cup in two weeks.

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