Portsmouth’s young guns tipped to fire

Rob Gicquel, centre. Picture: Allan Hutchings (142951-284)
Rob Gicquel, centre. Picture: Allan Hutchings (142951-284)
Tom Whitehouse. Picture: Neil Marshall (171730-81)

Pearce fires warning to triumphant Portsmouth

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Portsmouth coach Ian Chandler believes his young guns will begin to fire sooner rather than later.

The Rugby Camp talents take the next step in their rugby education tomorrow with a derby trip to Winchester in London two south west (3pm).

Chandler acknowledges they will make mistakes but has been pleased by the progress already made.

‘This is a year of development for us,’ said the coach.

‘We are still looking to recover from last season and put the foundations of a successful team together.

‘Seven or eight have come through the youth set-up and the team is on an uphill learning curve.

‘This weekend every one of our back row is under 24 years of age.

‘We know in this situation mistakes will be made.

‘The pleasing thing is the players are learning from their mistakes and there is definite progress.

‘We are trying to change their mentality so they become more independent and adaptable on the pitch.’

It is a baptism of fire for 23-year-old second-row forward Rob Gicquel in his first year of captaincy.

Chandler admits it is not easy for the youngster but rates both his rugby ability and character.

The former colt is composed under pressure and leads by example out on the pitch.

‘He has the potential to go on and play at a much higher level,’ said Chandler.

Fourth-placed Winchester will represent another tough challenge for Portsmouth.

The Norway Road outfit will do well to avoid a third successive league defeat.

‘It will be interesting to see how we fare against another one of the top sides,’ said Chandler.

Ed Hopkins comes in on the wing to make his full senior debut.

Elsewhere, a titanic struggle is expected at Burnaby Road as United Services host Millbrook in Hampshire one.

Both teams come into the game unbeaten and knowing they can each leapfrog Bognor and take over at the top with victory.

Services are forced to reshuffle their whole back-row because of unavailability.

Coach Graham Butterworth is coming out of retirement to play in the second row and Mark Dowds makes his senior debut at number seven.

Dowds’ no-nonsense approach could prove a big asset against the abrasive Millbrook forwards.

‘We know Millbrook are very physical up front,’ said Butterworth.

‘If we get involved in an arm wrestle in that area we could struggle.

‘Hopefully if we can avoid that then we will be able to exploit our fitness outside in the three-quarters.

‘We have scored a lot of tries through our powerful runners and must look to exploit that again.’

Full-back Chris Marriott grabbed a hat-trick against Alton and Services will look to him again to provide a spearhead in their attack.

‘We are being forced to make changes but the players coming in are not of a lesser quality,’ said Butterworth.

‘They may not be quite as match sharp that’s all.’