20 May 2024

Navy Rugby Welcomes Tom Blackburn as New Director of Rugby

Written by J Campbell-Baldwin

Tom Blackburn as the new Director of Navy Rugby reflects on his storied career and vision for the future.

In an exciting development for Navy Rugby, Tom Blackburn has been appointed as the new Director of Rugby. With a rugby career rich in defining moments, accomplishments, and a deep-seated passion for the sport, Blackburn’s journey to this position is impressive.

Tom's rugby journey began at Haslemere RFC in the U10s, where he found his passion for the sport after 'failing' at football. This early start laid the foundation for a career filled with significant milestones. Playing for the Colts at Guildford RFC and winning the inter-services with the RN U23s were pivotal moments. His involvement with the senior squad culminated in winning the inter-services in 2010, and most recently, achieving the same feat with the RN Mariners this year.

Tom credits his father for introducing him to rugby, a sport that provided him with an inclusive environment where he truly fit in. His time at Welbeck College, participating in the Daily Mail Cup, further honed his skills. These early experiences not only shaped his love for rugby but also paved the way for his future successes.

Among Tom's significant accomplishments, as mentioned, are winning the inter-services with the RN U23s and earning his first Senior RN and Combined Services Caps. This year, his contribution to the RN Mariners’ inter-services victory, where he was awarded Man of the Match against the Army, stands out as a testament to his on-field durability. It is rare to find a player who continues to play through the Navy representative age-grades.

Throughout his career, Tom faced competition for his position, particularly with Kyle Mason, a formidable rival at loosehead. This rivalry pushed him to switch to tighthead, where he found greater opportunities and developed his scrummaging abilities. These challenges only strengthened his resolve and skillset.

Tom is not just known for his on-field skills but also for his camaraderie and passion for BBQ. Before the Masters inter-services this year, he shared his love for BBQ with the team, cooking an impressive spread that many believe contributed to their victory. This story encapsulates Blackburn’s dedication to fostering team unity and his love of nice piece of beef.

As a player, Tom focused on the basics, ensuring consistency and reliability. His scrummaging was his superpower, but he also surprised many with his ball-handling and carrying abilities. His approach has always been about reducing errors and providing a stable presence on the field.

Balancing rugby with his career as an Air Engineer Officer posed significant challenges. He often juggled work and training, demonstrating an extraordinary commitment to both his profession and his passion. This balancing act allowed him to continue excelling in rugby without compromising his career.

The Army has always been a formidable opponent in Inter Service rugby, making victories against them particularly sweet. Tom recalls playing against Chris Budgen, a former Exeter Chiefs player, as a humbling and educational experience that pushed him to improve his game.

Among his many teammates, Ben Priddy stands out for Blackburn. Priddy’s skill, hard play, and sense of humour made him a joy to play alongside, highlighting the strong bonds formed through rugby.

In 2015, Tom stepped back from representative rugby to focus on his career but found new ways to contribute to the rugby community. In 2019, he took on the role of UK Armed Forces Rugby Secretary, adding value as a playing alickadoo and maintaining a focus on the welfare of the rugby community and its players.

Vision for Navy Rugby

As the new Director of Navy Rugby, Tom brings a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the sport. His journey from a young player at Haslemere RFC to this leadership role shows his dedication and drive. He aims to build on the successes of the past, fostering an inclusive and competitive environment that will drive Navy Rugby to new heights.

Tom Blackburn’s appointment is not just a huge personal achievement but a promising step forward for Navy Rugby. His vision, shaped by years of experience and a deep love for the sport, promises a bright future for the team and its supporters.

Here's hoping he remains as a player-director to ensure that the Mariners are crowned back-to-back Inter Service Champions!

Images by PPAUK and Alligin Photography