Ben Priddey Leading in the Jossman’s Shadow
Ben Priddey is only the second non commissioned captain of the Royal Navy who plays hooker. The first? Master at Arms William ‘Bill’ Luddington holds the distinction of being the first rating to be invited to captain the Royal Navy Rugby Union, a rare achievement in its day. The goal kicking hooker, who went on to win 13 international caps for England, left a lasting legacy to Navy Rugby and is remembered fondly at Devonport Services, where at the Rectory they unveiled the Luddington Memorial Stand in his honour. Travelling with Oxford University’s committee for Wednesday’s game will be Richard Luddington, Bill’s grandson, himself a talented sportsman with Blues in rugby, cricket and hockey. Indeed, he played in the 100th match between Oxford and Cambridge Universities, held on a snow covered Twickenham pitch in 1981. As a distinguished historian he is well placed to appreciate the rich history that both Varsity and Service rugby enjoys.
As the Royal Navy build towards the 2016 Inter Service, the Luddington connection provides a timely link from the very first Inter Service match between the newly formed Army and Royal Navy Unions, in 1907. Captain that day, for the Navy victory, was Ernest Roberts, who as Royal Navy Selector broke the mould by appointing Bill Luddington as his captain in 1926. Roberts was also an International Selector who had been responsible for Luddington’s call up to the England team in 1923. Luddington proved to be the only non commissioned captain for the Royal Navy Rugby Union in its first fifty year of existence, a fitting testament to an excellent player, on the pitch, and an outstanding leader off the pitch. It is not often that a Jossman receives such praise from their peers but Luddington’s impact amongst everyday sailors was demonstrated, in a very real sense, by the size of the donation they raised after his death for the memorial stand at the Rectory.
Bill Luddington played at a time when the Royal Navy were the dominant team in the Inter Services. His first caps in 1921 saw the Royal Navy retain their IS crown and he was part of the 1922 team, the only occasion when the Royal Navy has won three titles in a row. He surely would have gone on to be a Selector, but was unfortunately killed in action on board HMS Illustrious in 1941. A player who enjoyed and rose to the big occasion, Luddington would have relished the role Ben Priddey now has as he leads the modern Royal Navy team’s preparations for the 2016 Inter Services and a final day show down in front of 82,000 at the Army Navy match. Having experienced the extra pressures that a centenary match brings, perhaps Bill’s grandson, Richard can be persuaded to impart some advice before next season’s 100th Army Navy match at Twickenham?
However, before the Inter Services arrive, Priddey will be looking to continue the Royal Navy’s explosive start to the 2016 season. The front row has been adjusted with Gareth Evans making his first start of the season at loose head prop. Chris Warner moves across to tight head with Ben at hooker. John Lamsin re-joins Edd in the second row and Timo Kava makes way for Lewis Cooper to start at Number 8. Ben Fox and Jarrard Hayler continue on the flanks.
Behind the scrum Cory Moore is paired with the returning Nathan Huntley with Matt Tichias remaining at inside centre where he is joined by Sam Davies. Matt Bowden and Ben Chambers continue on the wings with Rhys Dimmock-Williams starting at fullback.
The replacements bench is led by the experienced Harry Collins at hooker but otherwise has a very youthful look. Joe Burton and Chris Robinson cover prop with Ben Watson and Timo Kava providing back five cover. Gareth John Rees is named as replacement scrum half along with centre James Griggs and the versatile Greg Loydall.
The match kicks off at 19:15 on Wednesday 24 February as part of a Portsmouth double bill. Whilst the Senior XV are on the USSG pitch, the Mariners kick off at 19:00 on HMS Temeraire’s 3G pitch, where they play Havant. If you cannot get across to the East side of the harbour then HMS Collingwood is the venue where the RN Women host Portsmouth RFC, also a 19:00 kick off.
Royal Navy Starting XV v Oxford University:
Gareth Evans *, Ben Priddey * (Capt), Chris Warner, Edd Pascoe *, John Lamsin *, Ben Fox *, Jarrard Hayler *, Lewis Cooper, Cory Moore, Nathan Huntley *, Matt Bowden *, Matt Tichias *, Sam Davies *, Ben Chambers, Rhys Dimmock-WIlliams
Replacements: Harry Collins *, Joe Burton, Chris Robinson, Ben Watson, Timo Kava, Gareth John Rees, James Griggs, Greg Loydall
* Denotes capped player
Article by Geraint Ashton Jones
Images by Alligin Photography / © John Walton, © Mark Andrews, © David Martin & © Geraint Ashton Jones