UNITED SERVICES Portsmouth will bid to move a step closer to playing at English rugby headquarters Twickenham when they travel to Eastbourne in the RFU Junior Vase tomorrow (2.30pm).
Services disposed of Croydon 31-7 in confident fashion in the last round and have high hopes of progressing further.
Director of rugby Simon Burns has a wonderful Twickenham pedigree, having gained 17 caps for the navy between 1993 and 2007.
He also captained losing finallists Gosport & Fareham in the 2001-2002 Intermediate Cup against Halifax on the hallowed turf at TW1.
No other Hampshire club side have reached the final in the capital and Burns would love to go back there again with Services.
‘There is nothing quite like playing at Twickenham,’ said Burns.
‘I have fantastic memories of my games there, particularly leading Gosport & Fareham out against Halifax, who went on to play National League rugby.
‘It is a special place and I would love my players to experience it.
‘For them, it would be a chance in a lifetime.
‘It is only the second round, though, and there is a lot of hard work to be done before we can even think about it.’
A win at Eastbourne would cap an outstanding week for Services, who last weekend received the RFU Club Accreditation Award.
The award has been set up to provide a framework to help clubs become stronger, more effective, more efficient and more enjoyable places to play rugby union.
It judges the club on areas such as retaining and developing players, recruiting and keeping new players, high-quality coaches, volunteers and referees, effective facilities, management and integration with the local community.
Burns, who is determined to help Services become a progressive club, believes it is just reward for the hard work put in by numerous people at Burnaby Road.
‘It shows right through the club, the youth, the ladies and the seniors that we are putting the right processes in place,’ said Burns.
‘With another World Cup in 2015, we are aiming to have the framework in place to enable us to benefit from the expected surge in interest in the game.
‘In March of next year we expect to have a new 3G rugby pitch in place which will allow us to train 365 days a year.
‘It’s a facility we might be able to offer World Cup teams in the future.
‘We are proud to get the award from the RFU and, if we can win at Eastbourne, that would put the icing on the cake.’
Services go into their Vase tie without centre Bob Hoskins (broken nose), while outside-half Andy Webster and hooker Andy Part have school commitments.
Tom Willoughby returns in the centre, Andy Webster comes in at outside-half and Ally Randall starts as hooker.
Ollie Smith is back at No8, allowing Luke Osborn to move into the second row.
Secret weapon Burns remains on the replacements’ bench.