RUGBY fans on the Isle of Wight are expected to turn up in their numbers to watch the eagerly anticipated derby clash between the IW and Ventnor at Wootton Rec tomorrow (Saturday).

It should be a real cracker, based on recent encounters.

The last time these two Island heavyweights in Hampshire 1 locked horns it finished 9-7 to Ventnor at Watcombe Bottom on October 20 last year.

The signs it may be another close game look very much on the cards.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Andy Rann will be a key player for IW against Ventnor.  FILE

The last time these two sides faced each other at Wootton Rec, in March last year, only a point separated the two sides, with Isle of Wight winning a thrilling match 18-17.

The Island, whose form has been patchy recently, will aim to atone for their narrow defeat last autumn.

Ian Puzey is out through injury, but James Reed and Jim Willetts will be available for selection.

“We played well in our last outing against high-flying Ellingham and Ringwood and were close to a surprise victory on the road,” said Isle of Wight’s director of rugby, Dave Metcalfe.

“Last time we played at Ventnor our penalty count was unbelievably high, so one of our first priorities will be to adapt to the referee on the day. It’s almost impossible to win a game otherwise.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Justinas Urbonas (with ball) will be a key player missing from the Ventnor line-up.  FILE

“The boys played well at Ringwood two weeks ago, so a repeat of that performance would give us a good chance of winning Saturday’s game — but derbies are hard to predict.”

Ventnor captain Jake Babington, who led his side to victory in their last encounter, is looking at tomorrow’s clash as a chance to climb up the Hampshire 1 ladder.

“This is a big fixture on our calendar — not only to gain bragging rights against our closest rivals, but to also potentially match them on points with a game in hand,” said Babington.

“Everyone at the club is fighting for their place this week to be in with a chance to play against Isle of Wight.

“We know they will be looking to settle the score from the previous fixture at ours earlier in the season, so we will have to come out firing on all cylinders from the start.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Ventnor will need Todd Riches to replicate the same form he showed with the boot in their last match, at home to Trojans II.  FILE

“We lost out by just a point last season at theirs, so it will certainly be a closely fought match again — we expect nothing less.”

Ventnor go into the game with an almost full squad to choose from, but will miss some important players for them this season.

“Throughout this season we’ve had injuries to a number of players, including Pat Dawes, who broke his thumb in our last game,” Babington added.

“We have an almost full selection of players available, minus a couple of first team regulars, Harry Colson and Justinas Urbonas, who are unable to rearrange prior commitments.

“We have Sam Lines, who returned last week after a nasty injury early on this season, cut up the defence to score after being on the pitch a matter of minutes.”

Isle of Wight County Press:

Isle of Wight in action against Kingsclere recently.  Photo: Kingsclere RFC

Ventnor’s head coach, Chris Fletcher, said that with the squad gaining some consistency on the field and in training, he has been able to work on a game plan to tackle the IW.

“There has been great improvement in our previous two fixtures. I cannot fault the team’s efforts,” he said.

“This week, we just need to keep our composure and just keep doing what we have been doing lately, which will lead to the result we are after.”

Kick off 2.30pm.

In the Hampshire Premiership, second placed Sandown and Shanklin travel to second bottom Tottonians II.

The last time the two sides played, the Hurricanes blew Tottonians away 107-7 at The Fairway on September 29, their biggest win of the season.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Sam Wedderkop (with ball) will be missing from the Hurricanes side away at Tottonians II tomorrow.  FILE

However, the Islanders are not expecting the reverse fixture to be an easy game.

The hosts have been a much sterner test at home for visiting teams and, with the Hurricanes missing a number of key players this week, it is beginning to add up to a tough match in prospect.

Props Martin Richomme and Darren Carew, injured hooker Zak Chiverton and missing centres Sam Tyson and Jack Wedderkop, full back Ben Sanderson, and wing Wayne Williams, will be absent from tomorrow's line-up.

There is also an injury to returning back Michael Barrett, who has re-signed with the Hurricanes from Bournemouth, but he will have to wait for his second debut after recovering from a suspected broken thumb.

The absences will present an opportunity for some players to stake a claim for a starting berth and create some competition for places, said captain Sam Flux.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Hurricanes skipper Sam Flux (with ball) will have a side without a number of key players against Tottonians II.  FILE 

There will be a reshuffle in the front row, with the returning Chris Skelley in line for his first appearance of the season.

Similarly, in the back line, Jacob Jordan and Tom Borrer are both available, so there is likely to be a positional switch to full back for Borrer to help cover the absences this week.

"It will be a test of character and the team's ability to handle pressure without their usual leaders," said the Hurricanes' director of rugby, Damien Marriott.

"With Sam (Flux) leading, as he does every week, he will be missing his two vice-captains in Zak Chiverton and Sam Tyson, who have been massive this season.

Isle of Wight County Press:

"Some of the younger lads are going to have to step up and fill these voids to help get the result we need this weekend.

"They will be aided by some of the more experienced heads in the group.

"Yet again, everyone needs to stand up and be counted this week to put us in a great position going into next week."

There will be another derby match tomorrow.

Ventnor’s seconds are looking strong going into their clash with Sandown and Shanklin II at Watcombe Bottom.

The side will be looking to gain the win they need to help cement their position in Hampshire 4.

Fletcher said: “We have a couple of returning players for this fixture who are looking to make an impact with their first game back for a while.

“Doing the double with both the first and second teams over our local rivals would make for a great weekend.”