Naval Base Welcomes United States World Cup Rugby Squad

Eagles line the gangway to HMS Victory
RAdm Keith Beckett presenting Chris Wyles with a memento of their visit to HM Naval Base
Royal Marine Band Service Corps of Drums put on a rousing display
Queen Elizabeth School choir saluting the Eagles after their rendition of a ‘World in Union’
Proud Eagles after being presented with their tournament caps
USA Eagles youngest player Nico Kruger with players from US Portsmouth U9’s

After what seems an inexhaustible amount of time RWC 2015 is nearly upon us and Portsmouth and the Royal Navy are playing their part in the build up by welcoming the United States rugby squad as they prepare to do battle in the World Cup. The home of Royal Navy sport, HMS TEMERAIRE and more precisely the home of Royal Navy Rugby: Burnaby Road is to be their base as they put the final touches to their RWC preparations.

The Eagles will spend the days leading up to their first match on 20 September in Portsmouth. Playing Samoa in Brighton, we can expect a bruising encounter.

Led by the captain, Chris Wyles, into HMS Nelson’s Wardroom the players and management took their seats to rapturous applause from the guests representing World Rugby, England 2015 and members of the local community including Hampshire RFC, RNRU, local rugby club officials and families and friends of the team. The official Welcoming Ceremony began with an excellent rendition of the ‘World in Union’ performed by Queen Elizabeth School, Wimborne.

Then followied welcome addresses by Brett Gosper, CEO of World Rugby and Ian Ritchie, Chief Eexecutive of the Rugby Football Union during which he told the audience: “We extend our grateful thanks to the Royal Navy for not only providing this fantastic venue…but also for providing their first-rate facilities for the US team to train in.”

Rear Admiral Keith Beckett, RN Rugby Union Vice President, said: “For the US Eagles, your presence here is the culmination of a couple of years of planning as part of an wider initiative to use the aura of the Rugby World Cup to attract more players, coaches, referees and supporters to this wonderful game.

He added: “For the men and women of the Navy, rugby is one of many vital outlets that enable them to further our core values of courage, commitment, discipline, respect, integrity and loyalty.

Without missing an opportunity to pitch IDRC 15 he went on to say, “In parallel with the Rugby World Cup, we are also playing joint host to our very own inter-armed forces world cup, otherwise known as the International Defence Rugby Competition which will take place next month. Those competing include the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force and representative teams from the Armed Forces of nine other nations.”

After the speeches each member of the team was presented with a tournament cap and Rugby World Cup 2015 participation medal. Unlike the caps awarded by the nation’s rugby union these caps are unique, acting as a lasting reminder of a career defining moment.

Invited to the stage, Wyles, who plays his club rugby for Saracens, said, "The local community and the Royal Navy have been so kind to us since we arrived. I cannot thank them enough for letting us train and prepare at their base. I speak for myself and the rest of the guys when I say we cannot wait to get started."

The ceremony was capped by a stirring display by the Royal Marines Band Service’s Corps of Drums.

With the official ceremony complete it was clear that the players were itching to get back on their feet to see more of the dockyard. Escorted around HMS Victory by RN Senior XV Head Coach Ash Coates the Eagles were treated to a full run of the Ship. Keen to explore they learnt a great deal about the traditions of the Royal Navy and the origins of a number well known sayings including ‘letting the cat out of the bag’, ‘son of a gun’ and the one that raised the largest chuckle, the origin of the phrase ‘toe rag’.

With a tough group including the Springboks, Samoa, Scotland and Japan, the Eagles are in for a challenging tournament but with Head Coach Mike Tolkin navigating and World Cup veteran, Chris Wyles at the helm, the team will look to cause an upset and they begin their voyage with Royal Navy Rugby Union’s best wishes.

Article by J Campbell-Baldwin
Images by kind permission of RWC 2015 ©Getty Images