Report by Louise Clarke, HMS MANCHESTER Leading Physical Trainer, Coach of HMS MANCHESTER 1st IV. HMS MANCHESTER returned from the Gulf in May 08 after a 7 month deployment which saw the Ships Company integrate into the US Strike Group, and built a strong bond with US Aircraft Carrier, The Harry S Truman. During the deployment, life at sea was busy, but the good old moto ‘work hard, play hard’ was well practiced, particularly when the ship came alongside in foreign ports such as Sicily, Bahrain, Dubai and Barcelona. The MANCHESTER was lucky enough to play a game of rugby in all these countries, including Muscat. The squad developed in camaraderie and fitness as the months past. As each game was played, not only the team’s credibility grew, but so did their support. At times, between 50 and 80 members of the Ships Company would sacrifice what little time they had alongside, and support the Rugby Team at the games that had been organised with local teams and Military bases. After a busy period of maintenance alongside, the Ship made a visit to Liverpool in Sep 08, and was welcomed home by the City of Manchester. I thought it would be very fitting if I contacted Sale Sharks Rugby Football Club, an affiliate of HMS MANCHESTER, to see if we could spread the word of Rugby, the Royal Navy and of course, Sale Sharks throughout the globe; and by what better way than by playing in the Sale Sharks Kit. We are also lucky enough to have a Manchester City Football strip onboard for the Ships Football Team that was kindly donated by Man City FC. Now, by the generosity of Sale Sharks; the possibility became a reality. After exchanging emails and phone calls with Sale’s PR and Hospitality Team, it turned out that that the presentation of the kit should be a little more formal than being sent via Royal Mail; therefore, 12 members of the Ships Rugby Team were kindly invited to the home fixture of Sale v Saracens on Fri 12 Sep 08. Dressed in No.1’s we were escorted through the crowds at Sale, into the Hospitality Suite where we were honoured to be sat at the front of the lounge. We were treated like royalty the whole evening and made to feel extremely proud. We took our seats in the stands, and yes, the notorious ‘aye aye sailor’ comments were noted, but that did not deter people’s respect and admiration for us. At half-time, we were escorted onto the pitch where the exchange of the Ships Plaque and a Sale Sharks Shirt took place. The pinnacle of the evening was when we had a standing ovation off the crowd as we acknowledged their club’s generosity towards us, and of course, managing to get a picture with the mascot, ‘Sharkie’! On completion of the match, we went back into the Player’s Lounge where we awaited the arrival of Sebastian Chabel, Dwayne Peel, Charlie Hodgson and many more other rugby stars. A surreal yet fantastic evening was had by all, with special thanks going to Nathan Bombries, Julian Price and James Jennings at Sale Sharks. HMS MANCHESTER now look forward to a South Atlantic Trip in Jan 09, where the Rugby Team hope to christen the kit by playing in countries such as Argentina, Chile and Peru.