Go Royal Navy: Beat US Navy

Sam Matavesi joined the Senior XV straight from HMS Raleigh and played against the Army at Twickenham
Senior XV lock, Royal Marines Musician Edd Pascoe will be the team captain for the tour
John Stephens missed the Inter Service competition due to injury and will be keen to return to form during the tour

The Royal Navy Rugby Union Senior XV are on a short tour of the eastern seaboard of the United States. The tour, between 9 to 23 Sep 17 will see them participate in three fixtures against the United States Naval Academy (USNA), the Potomac Exiles and United States Marine Corps (USMC).

With an aim of developing and preparing the Senior XV squad and management team for the Inter-Services Championship 2018, as well as investigating and developing a new batch of players, the tour looks to raise the profile of Service Rugby and to reinforce the strong partnerships between our respective Navies and Marine Corps as we move forward in the realms of Carrier Strike and Littoral Manoeuvre.

This is a golden opportunity for players to put themselves forward on the back of some strong performances for selection to the Senior XV squad in preparation for the new season and to look also at the USMC before the Commonwealth Navies’ Rugby Cup (CNRC) 2018 taking place 4 – 15 Mar 18 in Plymouth.

The strong squad of 28 players and 6 Training Support Staff came together on the 9 September under coach Ash Coates. This will be Ash’s final hurrah as head coach prior to leaving the Royal Navy and he is really looking forward to a successful tour and a last taste of success with the side he has nurtured over the past three years.

Team manager and, chef de camp, Chris Roberts said, “…it is a chance to blow off the cobwebs and play some quality teams. Rugby remains the fastest growing sport in America and we can expect that the opposition will be fit and physical and will really want to take us to task.”

Arriving in Dulles Airport, Washington, the squad will be based at the Marine Corp Base, Quantico which is also home to the FBI training facility. A two-day training camp took place to help the team get over the jet lag before they play United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, affectionately known as ‘boat school’. It is similar to Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in that it trains future naval officers; where it differs is in size and purpose. UK cadets are in Dartmouth for a maximum of one year to make the transition from civilian to naval officer where Annapolis provides a 4 year undergraduate course for their cadets. It is hoped that the sides run out onto the 34,000 capacity Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium which is typically used for American Football and lacrosse. More likely the Royal Navy will play the Academy sides on one of many pitches surrounding the stadium.

With numerous sight-seeing opportunities and 2 major cities within 50 minutes (Washington and Baltimore), the TSG will have no problem providing the cultural experience side of the tour allocated in the off-days between matches.

Game two is against the Potomac Exiles, who boast a USA Eagle in the ranks, and will also take place in Annapolis. The ‘Exiles are a Division One Men’s Rugby Club, competing in the USA Rugby’s Mid-Atlantic Conference. The side was formed in the fall of 2014, when two former rivals, the Potomac Athletic Club and Maryland Exiles, set aside the bruised shoulders and ribs, and decided to join forces. Both clubs had a rich and rewarding history with a National Championship to their credit. However, after months of discussion, the teams decided that it would be best to set aside the rivalry in an effort to improve the standard of play in the Mid-Atlantic.’

The previous two games though likely to be bruising encounters conceivably are a warm up for the USMC fixture taking place on 20 September. Running an incentive called ‘Semper Fit’ and promoting the brand of All-Marine sport, a similar entity to Navy Fit and the Royal Navy Elite Sports Programme, the purpose of which is to enable exceptional Marine athletes to compete at higher level competitions to include Armed Forces Championships, National Championships, Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM) Championships, and the Olympics. The All-Marine programme has produced many athletes who are nationally ranked and have gone on to perform in the Olympics. The touring team can therefore expect to encounter an athletic team full of running. They lined up against the British Army 7s in Denver in August for the International Defence 7s Competition but were well off the pace by the end of the 14 minutes. Keen to exact revenge against another UK Service side in the traditional form of the game, the USMC will bring all of the ‘Honor [sic], Courage, and Commitment’ expected of the American fighting arm.

Words by J Campbell-Baldwin and C Roberts
Images by RNRU © Keith Woodland and John Walton