Royal Navy Rugby Union reaches out to support Lisbon

RNRU coach, Jamie Campbell-Baldwin (centre left) pictured with fellow Jaguars’ coach, Lee Phillips, and players.
The Jaguars running some lines in their newly donated rugby kit.

When Royal Navy ships deploy around the world they make the most of opportunities to engage with local communities.  Similarly, Royal Navy personnel based overseas are also keen to engage, and what better way to do that than as part of the world-wide rugby family?

During operational deployments Royal Navy ships are in the enviable position of visiting many and varied destinations.  When a ship comes alongside, it is not long until a bus pulls up to take the sports’ teams away to play local clubs.  They also look for opportunities to engage with the local communities in other ways such a outreach or other voluntary work.  Similarly; ways to give back to the wider rugby community are an integral part of what being a member of the rugby family is all about, as seen during HMS Duncan’s visit to Italy last year when Briganti RFC had suffered a fire.

Ten years of memories, trophies, the entire heritage of Librineria, lots of memorabilia accumulated over the years, the technical and medical material, the kitchen, in short everything touched by the fire had been lost.

The public pulled together by rebuilding the clubhouse. Their predicament came to the attention of HMS DUNCAN, who was on operations in the Mediterranean. With a port visit to Catania already planned, the rugby team seized the opportunity to provide support to a club at the heart of the community. The club, which is in a district where drug use is rife, has an enduring vision to use rugby to create a respectable and healthier environment for the youth of the area.

The team from HMS Duncan helped to build stud walls, shelving and a secure door, plumbed in the toilet facilities, and ran electrical cables. It was great example of the bond that rugby teams throughout the world share.  The club is now well truly back on its feet thanks in no small part to a group of navy rugby enthusiasts.

Elsewhere an opportunity arose to support St. Julians’ Rugby Club in Portugal by providing balls, cones, drill tops and playing kit.  The call went out to the Royal Navy Rugby Union who willingly supplied one of their pre-worn community rugby team kits for use by the Portuguese team.  A not-for-profit organisation based at St. Julians School in Carcavelos, Portugal, the club is open to any young player from the local community.  The club is an affiliated member of the Portuguese Rugby Federation and enters teams in tournaments and festivals, as well as organising foreign tours for all age-groups up to sub-16.  At sub-18 and senior level, the club joins with their sister club Escolinha de Rugby Galiza to form combined teams known as the JAGUARs (Julians And Galiza United At Rugby) and that is where the club is slightly different…

…both St Julians and Galiza rugby clubs were established on exactly the same day 12 years ago (2005). There is a long history of students from St Julians working with young people from the Galiza charity group.  This continued and strengthened with the establishment of the 2 rugby clubs. The clubs share facilities, training knowledge, coaching and much more. This year has seen 2 of the players selected at age-group level for the U18 national team, with the Jaguars currently standing in 9th place in the top league, meaning that they have to travel the length and breadth of Portugal to play their matches.

Incidentally, the Royal Navy Rugby Union already had a connection with St Julians.  Royal Marine and Royal Navy Rugby Union Senior XV player Lewis Cooper was a pupil at the school and played rugby with the team.    

Sub-18 forwards’ coach and Sub-14/16 assistant coach Lee Phillips said: "I started playing as a schoolboy in Germany as my father was serving with the RAF.  I then moved into coaching when I qualified as a PE teacher, and I was also playing for Henley RFC. This was followed by stints in the Midlands captaining the University of Worcester team and then moving to Wales to play for Cardiff Harlequins. I've loved the rugby opportunities I have experienced since moving to Portugal particularly my involvement with the diverse Jaguars.  As two very small clubs, funding is always an issue and we give our heartfelt thanks to the Royal Navy for this kit. The boys [U18s] were extremely excited to don the kit as well as being incredibly grateful to the RNRU for its kind offer and support.”

Commander Steve Banfield, Commanding Officer HMS IRON DUKE, said, “I am really pleased that my Ship’s rugby kit could be put to such a good and worthy cause.  Sport is such an important part of service life but outside of that it plays a huge role in bringing people together as well as giving them confidence in themselves. If HMS Iron Duke can assist these vulnerable young people then that is a true privilege and honour.”

Lee is surrounded by an international team of qualified rugby coaches from Portugal, Britain (our very own Jamie Campbell-Baldwin), Italy, Ireland, South Africa and Australia enjoying the sun and an expansive brand of rugby. Similar to the RFU, the emphasis is on developing teamwork, skills and fitness levels, as well as promoting the traditional rugby values of integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect.  A small rugby nation both in physical stature and player base, the club looks to develop a quick game shifting the ball out wide.  Their main effort is to enable players of all abilities and levels of experience to play rugby for the fun and enjoyment of the game itself, although as the players move through the age-groups increasing emphasis is placed on team performance and competitiveness.

“The Royal Navy Rugby Union is delighted to be able to support Jaguars Rugby Club with their outreach programme and HMS Duncan’s selfless activities in Italy last year were commendable, said Cdr Sarah Oakley (RNRU Vice-Chair). “In line with the objectives of the RFU, we aim to encourage and promote the playing of rugby wherever we go and it is great to see members of the RNRU on overseas operations or individual appointments reaching out and getting involved with such worthwhile community projects.”

Words: J Campbell-Baldwin and J Smith
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © Michael Hulten