Vets to do battle in cup final

Ian French will make his debut for the Portsmouth Vets
Ian French will make his debut for the Portsmouth Vets
Ryan Wilkie in possession for Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Portsmouth rise to call for ‘heart and desire’

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THE VETERANS at Portsmouth are looking to retain their Hampshire champions title when they take on Gosport & Fareham in the John Sneezum Cup final at Rugby Camp (1.45pm).

Portsmouth contain four former captains, including Hugh ‘Chalky’ White, who led them in their first-ever Vets cup-winning season 16 years ago.

Current captain Ken Ross believes the final could be an exciting spectacle and is hoping the city side’s greater experience will see them come out on top.

‘It is fantastic to have so many former captains in the team,’ said Ross, who shares the duties with Nobby Styles.

‘Gosport & Fareham put their side together for the cup but had a terrific win over Havant a few weeks ago.

‘They won’t be easy opponents.

‘We played impressively to beat Basingstoke and Winchester, in the previous rounds.

‘They were two good sides, so it should be a terrific game.

‘I am expecting it to be a physical encounter, but we have got some big lads in our pack, including ex-West of Scotland captain Scott McKechnie.

‘At half-back we have the great understanding of the McLaughlin brothers and, of course, there is the pace of Styles and the ‘Silver Fox’ Matt Gronow outside.’

Portsmouth give a debut to 35-year-old ‘youngster’ Ian French, who can expect a lively initiation into vets rugby.

The club are making an occasion of the final, with a curry available in the clubhouse from 12.45pm and a cheese-and-wine affair after the game.

‘I think there will be a sizeable crowd and it should be a good spectacle,’ said Ross.

‘We have a good record in this competition, winning it last year, and were beaten finalists the year before.

‘It would be nice to win it again but we know that we will have to work hard to do so.’

n The Hampshire under-20 RFU County Championship game against Kent, scheduled for Rugby Camp, on Sunday has been postponed until February.