2014 tournament winners HMS Sultan

Friday 18th September 2015 marks the start of the Rugby World Cup.  Whilst this will be the beginning of 6 weeks of the highest quality of rugby on offer, England Rugby 2015 (ER 2015), RFU and many associated organisations have been actively engaged in the making the most out of the build up towards this prestigious tournament and the Royal Navy Rugby Union (RNRU) has been playing its part.  Through participating in a number of key activities associated with this event, the RNRU aims to attract new people to rugby and also encourage ex-players back into the fold.

Under the banner of the ‘Rugby World Cup initiative’ (RWCi), a small team of RNRU volunteers, have been looking at ways to support both ER 2015 and RFU whilst attracting greater interest in rugby within the Royal Navy and Royal Marines during this special year. The team has focussed on four main areas under the pithy titles of: Basing, Festival, The Pack and Unity.

‘Basing’ was aimed at attracting international teams to train using Royal Navy facilities as they prepare for the group stages of the tournament. Portsmouth (HMS TEMERAIRE and HM Naval Base) and Devonport (as part of the Plymouth City bid) have been chosen to host the USA Eagles and Namibia Welwitschias (African Fish Eagle) respectively.  Whilst plans are still being put in place, it is intended to welcome the US Eagles on Sunday 14 September with a special reception at HMS Nelson Wardroom and on Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship, HMS VICTORY, within Portsmouth Historic dockyard.

‘Festival’ is the latest major event to be added to the extensive RNRU calendar.  On Wednesday 15th July, teams from Royal Navy & Royal Marine establishments, ships, submarines, squadrons and units will rendezvous on Weymouth beach for the 2nd annual Beach Rugby Festival.  In recognition of the Service’s prowess at combat in the amphibious arena, both men and women’s teams will compete in a knock out 5-a-side full contact match lasting 4 minutes each way with the opportunity to compete for the newly commissioned trophy. In last year’s inaugural tournament, the honours went to HMS SULTAN.  Friends, families and spectators are very welcome to join us on the day and details of how teams can enter the Beach Rugby Festival will be announced shortly; so keep watching the RNRU website for details. This event is also registered at

‘The Pack’ is an ER 2015 programme to search for 6,000 volunteers to support the match day experience at all the venues across the country – it is akin to the ‘games makers’ of London 2012 Olympics.  There were over 20,000 applications and approximately 30 Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel have either been allocated a role or are awaiting final confirmation. The many roles that will need to be fulfilled for each and every match includes: spectator services, transport, ticketing and press operations.

Finally, ‘Unity’ is aimed at developing and strengthen ties between the RFU and emerging European rugby nations through twinning its Constituent Bodies (mainly Counties) with the 17 target countries. When the RN’s Ships, Submarines or Units visit countries abroad, the men and women often take the opportunity to play and socialise with the local rugby community.  In recognition of this broad network, the RNRU aims to support the RFU through such visits.

And to the future, and the legacy of the Rugby World Cup 2015? The RNRU is looking to enlarge our own rugby community within the Naval Service, encouraging new players, coaches, referees, volunteers and supporters to this wonderful game.  Sport plays a huge part in Service life and rugby encapsulates the core values of the Royal Navy, including Respect and Discipline, which are shared ‘Core Values’ with the RFU.  To be fully effective in combat, men and women in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines must be physically and mentally fit and must possess self-discipline, stamina, courage and a competitive spirit.  Through the Rugby World Cup Initiative we aim to maximise the long term opportunities to play rugby within the Naval Service and develop strong ties within the rugby community, whether in the local area or on the global stage.  The RNRU aims to increase the numbers involved in the game, help raise the standards played, and provide our sailors and marines an opportunity to get the best out of this fantastic game, Rugby Union.

Article by Commander Phil Coope Royal Navy
Images: Crown Copyright / Clare Harris / Commander Mark Walker Royal Navy