Chairman’s Christmas Message

So much has happened already this season. Our two community rugby competitions, the Inverdale Challenge and the Navy Cup, have provided the opportunity for plenty of rugby to be played up and down the country.  And for the first time ever this year, an Inverdale Challenge match was played overseas, in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.  Teams from RN North and RN East made the journey to Holland as part of a weekend of events to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of a match played during the First World War by members of the Royal Naval Division interned there.  The contingent from the UK were hosted by Greate Pier Rugby Club and stayed at the local Dutch Air Base.  It was a very worthwhile event, with hundreds of spectators, allowing us to showcase our skills and strengthen links with rugby clubs overseas. Please come and show your support as this competition concludes at the Inverdale Trophy final on 25 January 2017.

In the Navy Cup, ten teams entered, representing Ships, Establishments, Air Stations, Naval Bases and Royal Marines Units.  The weather has been kinder this season and the final was played in December at the Rectory between Britannia Royal Naval College and HMS Seahawk, in a replay of the 2014 final.  This time Seahawk were victorious, retaining the title for the second year running.

Elsewhere our Community Rugby Coaches, Dave Wakefield and Spider Kelly, have continued to run Grass Roots sessions, introducing sailors and marines to rugby and helping to develop the skills of others.  Across the regions and within the Fighting Arms, individual matches have been organised and played, including the Eastern region mid-week league.  The training and coaching programme for 2017 has been finalised.  If you are interested, go to coaching courses on the website for more details. 

Off the Field the RNRU Trading Company has been successfully established and our finances are now being managed by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity finance team.  This should make very little difference to most of you however it will keep us the right side of the law with respect to the Charities Commission and should streamline our finances, making it easier for our staff and volunteers to process bills and expenses.

Our Annual Members Meeting was held at HMS Temeraire at the beginning of December.  It provided the opportunity to gather representatives from across all areas of the RNRU together to share information and discuss issues. Our new Director of Community Rugby, Commander ‘Beasty’ Williams was introduced, replacing Lieutenant Commander Chris Roberts, who remains a non-voting member of the Executive Committee, with responsibility for Special Projects. ‘Beasty’ is also responsible for the Presidents XV who commence their season in the New Year. The purpose of the Presidents XV is to bridge the gap between community and representative rugby. Specifically it provides an opportunity for regional players who have displayed a talent for rugby and the potential to break into the representative area, but have narrowly missed out on selection for the Senior XV training camp.

I am pleased to report that we have won our first silverware of the season, with the Under 23s successfully defending their Inter Service title (for the first time ever), with victories over both the Army at Aldershot and at home against the RAF.  Lieutenant Commander Rob O’Kane will now step down as Assistant Director of Rugby (U23), and he leaves a strong legacy both for his successor and the Senior XV who will hopefully see several of the players transfer to the Senior XV training camp when it starts in February. 

After the Christmas break you will then be able to feast on the usual ups and downs of a RNRU representative season, with the Seniors, Women and Mariners all competing from January to May. The highlight will of course again be the annual fixture with the Army. This coming year we will celebrate the 100th match between the Army Rugby Union and the Royal Navy Rugby Union on Saturday 29 April at Twickenham.  Tickets went on sale for this event on 1 November and sold out in just 72 hours - this is quite an incredible achievement and in large part due to the excellent marketing provided by Sapphire Seven Ltd.

All that remains is for me to thank you all for your support and contribution so far this season and to wish all our players, supporters, referees, life members, sponsors, staff and volunteers a happy and restful Christmas, and to those of our number serving on duty overseas, a safe return.

Colonel Ewen Murchison DSO MBE
Chairman, Royal Navy Rugby Union