Exeter Chiefs Brave the Leadership Challenges at Britannia Royal Naval College

Olly Woodburn cautiously optimistic that team mates won’t pull back
Swing Low
Lt Matt Ivory RN of the Leadership School briefing the Chiefs
Chiefs and BRNC staff including Captain Henry Duffy RN on the hallowed steps to the college
Crouch, set, heave

As we enter into Rugby World Cup 2015 in the background the rugby calendar still roles on for the Premiership clubs (though league matches don’t start until the quarter-finals stage). As the international players are away with the national sides an influx of younger players either from the margins of the first team or from the academies will be expected to step up to the mark. The teams in the south west are no exception and the Exeter Chiefs looking to test their resilience in different ways continued their pre-season build-up by being put through their paces by the Royal Navy.

Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, the home of initial officer training, hosted the Chiefs for two days of command and leadership training. Rob Baxter’s (Chiefs’ Head Coach) first team squad immersed themselves in a series of different challenges aimed at improving not only their decision-making and communication but also their leadership skills with the intent of applying these skills on the field of play.

Keen to challenge his squad in different areas away from the training fields, Rob Baxter, added: “It’s always nice to get the squad into different environments, particularly those that you can use to challenge them in ways that we can’t achieve in normal rugby training”.

“Going down to Dartmouth for a few days was not only one of those opportunities to test the guys at something a little bit different, but it got them thinking outside of the box, which you have to do at times on the pitch.

“As I said, it was nice to put the guys into a different environment, but at the same time let them make use of a great facility that is almost right on our doorstep.”

Initially tested at the Admiralty Interview Board on leadership and leaderless tasks, Royal Navy Officers, as part of their time at Dartmouth, take part in various challenges including transporting equipment and themselves across mock chasms, minefields and fortified walls using ropes, wooden planks and imagination. In addition to these land-based tasks the players’ were also suitably tested when they spent time out on the River Dart carrying out various water-borne activities, including competitive gig racing.

Warrant Officer Bill Bailey, BRNC’s Physical Development Officer, said: “The idea of the sessions with the Chiefs was to move away from a physical challenge and to introduce them to various styles of leadership that tested them as individuals and as small teams; which they can then hopefully transfer onto the pitch.”

BRNC’s rugby team are the current holders of the Navy Cup which is a remarkable feat based on the quick turn around of the cadets at the college and subsequent implications to team selection. The team was re-established last year as the College reintroduced competitive sport into the curriculum. Hopefully further success will follow. 

Captain Henry Duffy, the Commanding Officer of BRNC, said: “During Initial Naval Training we are looking to develop the fighting spirit required to succeed on operations and a number of core values, which include courage, commitment and discipline.  Sport is one way of doing this as these attributes are just as important in professional sportsmen and women. We were very pleased to share our training methods with the Exeter Chiefs and look forward to continuing our relationship with the Club.”

With such great facilities at both Sandy Park and BRNC and with a different take on transferable skills developed at each establishment, a strong relationship between the Chiefs and BRNC is anticipated to mutual benefit.

Article by J Campbell-Baldwin
Images © Crown Copyright /Craig Keating