Royal Navy Rugby Union Elects Its First Female Life Member


This year the RNRU Annual General Meeting convened on Mon 4 Oct in HMS TEMERAIRE and it was very pleasing to see an increase in number of attendees who had travelled from all parts of the UK. After listening to reports from the RNRU Executive Committee there were 2 special presentations which covered the RNRU new approach to coaching development by WO1 Ian Smith and RNRU Director of Rugby, Lt Cdr Geraint Ashton-Jones presented ‘The Navy Way', building on the success of the Royal Navy Senior Team in the 2009/10 Inter-Service Championship. The election of Officers of the RNRU followed, which saw the retirement of Lt Cdr Paula Rowe from the role of Director of Communications, to be replaced by Maj Steve Melbourne.

The Chairman's closing remarks provided clear proof of the importance the RNRU places on the development of women's rugby within the Royal Navy.  More women are now playing rugby (both codes) within the Royal Navy than ever before.  The strong linkage between Union and League and the continued support of the RNRU bore fruit as the RN Women produced their best ever Inter-Service results last season, beating the RAF and then running the Army closer than ever before.   

The driving force behind the Royal Navy Women's rugby since its inception some 12 yrs ago has been Paula Rowe, although her support and involvement across Navy Rugby has spanned over 18 years. In the early 1990s she helped behind the scenes at US Portsmouth and became a member of the TSG for the Navy U21 and CS U21 squads. She was also the Ship's Rugby Officer during her 2 years on board HMS Illustrious, which included OCEAN WAVE 97 with the challenge of arranging matches in many different countries against a variety of opponents. One of the first women in the RN to gain a RFU Coaching Award, she was the obvious choice to establish Women's Rugby in the Navy. A former player herself, she represented the Royal Navy Women in their inaugural Inter Services match and enjoyed playing at Plymouth Albion, before hanging up her boots when operational commitments (and age) took over. She handed over her role of Chairman of RNRU(W) this year. The first woman to be a member of the RNRU Executive Committee, Paula had served as Director of Communications since 2008 and retires from the RN in October this year.

Paula said of her election as a Life Member: "I was both surprised and delighted to be elected as a Life Member of the RNRU. This is a huge honour for me personally but I also see it as recognition of Navy Women's Rugby and how far we have come in recent years".