Christmas Message from the Chairman RNRU

It gives me great pleasure to be writing this end of year message as the Chairman of Navy Rugby, a position I have held since the summer; the time has certainly flown by.  Firstly I must thank everybody across the whole RNRU family who have contributed to the success of the past year.  In particular, the volunteers who contribute so much and who without we would not function.

There have been several changes in personnel throughout the year, all of which are part of the succession planning that is vital for our continued sustainability. Commander Chris Roberts was selected as the new Director of Rugby, to succeed Captain Roger Readwin post the Army Navy match this season.  Chris has a wealth of RNRU experience and as part of his handover period he will be looking at how we can continue to develop the Representative game so that we remain competitive at Inter Service level and continue to provide the pathway for all players to reach their potential. Commander Sarah Oakley will be the new Vice Chair, taking over in the New Year, as Captain Dave George stands down after six years’ Service on the executive committee.  I would like to add my personal thanks to Dave for his huge contribution to the Union and for making my transition so smooth in my first few months as Chair.

An early decision in my tenure was probably the most difficult, but necessary, decision I have had to make in my 30 plus years association with the Union. As many of you are aware, we have dislocated the Women and Mariners matches from the Senior XV match against the Army at Twickenham for 2019.  These matches will be held at HMS Collingwood the day before on 3 May and I hope many of you will be able to join them when they take on the Army in the final round of Inter Service matches.  Unfortunately, due to the behaviour of a small minority, the Army Navy Match Day Committee (which is directed by the RNRU and ARU) had to take the unpalatable decision to shorten the day’s events to reduce the potential of poor behaviour in the surrounding area near the stadium as well as in Twickenham town itself. I am absolutely convinced that without this action we were in danger of losing the stadium as a tenable venue for the Senior XV match.  We will closely monitor the activities surrounding the match in 2019 and then, along with the other stakeholders, principally the Metropolitan Police and the RFU, decide on a way ahead for future seasons.

On the field, a new chapter was started in April when we held the Royal Navy Vs RAF Inter Service matches at Kneller Hall and Twickenham Stoop, the home of Harlequins RFC. On a blistering hot day, despite the results not going our way, the overall event was a success with circa 4000 people attending.  With the RAFRU, the RNRU has signed a 3-year deal with Harlequins and we are looking to build on this year and grow the Inter Service championship (the Army are playing the RAF at Kingsholm, home of Gloucester RFC, this season). The Referees continue to punch above their numbers and have representation at Premiership, Championship and National League level and Commander Dunx McClement has taken over as the Chair of UKAF Rugby Referees.

In the Community Rugby area, whilst player availability remains a constant challenge, there were real positives; a 40% increase in hours played in the community game, The President’s XV played 5 matches and the Women’s Development Team played 4 – this identified 16 new players and 11 players from this development squad were pulled through in to the Women’s Senior XV. There is a real diversity of activity in the community area and my thanks go to the community rugby team who coordinate and pull together the full breadth of rugby.  A picture paints a thousand words so below is a graphical summary to show the depth and breadth of our community activity.

Looking forward, the Representative season ‘kicks off’ with the Men, Women and Mariners all beginning their fixtures as part of the annual build up to the Inter-Service competition in April/May. The pinnacle of Service rugby is United Kingdom Armed Forces (UKAF) Rugby where the very best of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force rugby players can be selected to represent their country and Lieutenant Commander Doc Cox has recently been appointed as the Director of Rugby for UKAF.  2019 will see the third International Defence Rugby World Cup (IDRC) which is being held in Japan, overlapping the IRB Rugby World Cup.  UKAF are taking both a men’s and a women’s team.  At present there is no Women’s equivalent IDRC and UKAF are using the opportunity to showcase the strength of UKAF Women’s rugby on a world scale – a fantastic opportunity for all our representative players to aspire to be part of in 2019.

All that remains for me to do is to wish you and your families a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.  I hope to see many of you on the touchline in 2019.  There are plenty of events in our structured season; please bring your friends along as opportunities exist for coaches, players, officials, volunteers and spectators.  We want you all to be involved in developing the club, growing our network and membership, and promoting the brand and values of the RNRU.

Commander Andy Kellett MBE, Chairman Royal Navy Rugby Union.