RAF U23 XV v RN U23 XV Match Preview

Far More Than Pride At Stake

With the Army already confirmed as the 2013 Inter Service U23 Champions many would describe this as a ‘dead rubber’, with only personal and collective pride to play for.  To do so would miss one of the key points of the U23s, and that is the development opportunities that are provided for players with Senior XV aspirations.  The Royal Navy side has one last opportunity to demonstrate that the key lessons from their home game against the Army have been learnt; composure and continuity.

RAF Halton is never an easy place to visit.  The RAF U23 XV will be smarting from their comprehensive 39-3 defeat at Aldershot and looking to impress at home.  How the Royal Navy deal with the opening quarter of this match will tell us much about the next generation of talent that seeks to wear the famous Navy shirt at senior level.  Against the Army, passion and commitment was not always delivered with control.  The resultant early penalty count did not allowed the Royal Navy to get a foothold in the game.  Too often players over competed at the tackle or were over eager in defence.  A player’s talent is not only measured by what they can do with the ball, but also how they play without the ball.  At Halton on Friday, this young Royal Navy side need to demonstrate that they can deliver intensity in a disciplined manner.  Passion with control.  Aggression with accuracy.  If they can achieve this,  then longer term the defeat to the Army will have a served a worthwhile purpose.

One of the great positives in the display against the Army, was the ability to convert the few opportunities presented into points.  On Friday the RN U23s need to repeat this conversion rate whilst generating more opportunities.  For this, the lineout will need to function better and the Navy’s kicking game improve.

The Navy’s lineout was placed under real pressure by a well-drilled Army unit that were able to put players into the air quickly.  The Navy have the personnel and the ability to ensure their own ball but they need to improve execution of  basics.  It is not always about delivering the perfect ball for the backs to attack from.  The first aim has to be keeping possession and build pressure in a variety of ways; patience and continuity.

This is equally true of the mid-field backs who must find ways of retaining the ball against the highly motivated defences found at Inter Service level.  Kicking possession away is an easy option but not necessarily an effective one.  With the number of attacking options in the back three, means must be created to bring them in to the game.  Similarly the back three must work harder when fielding opposition kicks to give the ball carrier real options to counter attack and punish the turnover.  Composure under pressure whilst retaining precious possession.

A young side?  Yes.  A season where continuity of personnel has been a challenge?  Yes.  A team that has shown real potential?  Yes.  A dead rubber?  No.

It is important that the Royal Navy U23 XV travel to RAF Halton and deliver a performance that finishes their season in style.  That delivers a performance of substance.  That shows that the harsh lessons of Inter Service rugby have been learnt and that this side is willing and able to heed these lessons and come back next season stronger and better.

RN U23 XV will play the RAF U23 XV on Friday 29 Nov.  KO 1330.  Venue RAF Halton

Images by Alligin Photography / © G Ashton Jones