Dare to dream - 3 years in a row?
This Wednesday the Royal Navy Rugby Union Under 23 team start their bid to win three Inter Service titles in a row. Following on from their success in 2015 and 2016, the team from the Senior Service will travel to RAF Halton to take on the RAF U23 side, kicking off at 1400. The RAF are already on the back foot, having lost away to the Army U23s last Wednesday 19 - 13. They will be keen to avenge the defeat and keep themselves in the competition. However the RNRU U23 team and management have very different ideas and are determined to come away with a win.
Assistant Director of Rugby, Lieutenant Commander Aidan Riley explains the challenges the team have been facing:
"A high operational tempo this season, in addition to the generation of our new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, has given us challenges with player availability. However we have been very fortunate with the flexibility and support offered to us by Commanding Officers at sea and ashore who have done their best to release players, operations permitting, wherever possible. Despite these challenges we have experienced some pleasing results, especially against London Scottish Academy and Exeter Chiefs Outreach team."
The season has been condensed to a 7 week run up to the Inter Service competition and started with a squad of over 50 players. The squad has been reduced in size over the past 2 months to the core who have been training prior to the match on Wednesday. They have benefitted from the vast experience of the coaching team which is headed up by Warrant Officer Paul Hillan and includes Chief Petty Officer John Court and Able Seaman Logistician Sili Buinimasi. Bringing with them their experience of playing Senior XV rugby they are a welcome addition to the U23 team management this season.
Named in the squad to face the RAF are 12 players who have already been capped for the U23s in previous seasons. These players have been able to provide a core of playing experience upon which to build and they are joined by some exciting new talent, several players fresh from new entry training at HMS Raleigh.
The team captain for the match will be Air Engineering Technican Scott Makepeace. He has brought all his experience and leadership to the team, not just on the field but also off it.
When asked how his team will be approaching their first Inter Service match, George Hillan replied:
"Our focus for this fixture is to try and treat it as we would any other fixture. If we believe in our ability and stick to our processes and structure we are difficult opposition, as we have already demonstrated."
And the final word goes to Aidan Riley:
"Last year's game against the RAF was very tight and we expect a similar contest this year."
The team will be selected from the players below:
AET Ben Love, AET Sam Vernon, ET Callum Frogley, AB Ben Roberts, AET Scott Makepeace, Mne Dan Mason, LCpl Jarard Hayler, AET Shaun Walker, AB Gareth Rees, AET Dan Rutter, ET Eldon Myers, LS Ben Jeacock, AET Brad Janes, AET Charlie Heard, AB Jackson Acreman, AET Gareth Yeomans, Lt Issac Salt, AB Nathan Treveil, AB James Lindsay, ET Joe Morgan, Bug Nick Burgess, AB Matt Bratton, ET James Griggs.
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton and Keith Woodland