Another small chapter in the long and distinguished history of the Royal Navy Rugby Union was written on Saturday when, for the first time, the Union awarded caps to the Mariners XV. Wilf Rees holds the distinction of being the first capped Mariner, a second first for him as he was also the inaugural recipient of the Mike Connolly Trophy. Paul Clark, the Mariners playing Head Coach also notched up a first, being the first player to be capped by the Union in two different categories, having been capped at Senior level in 2003.
To qualify for a cap the Mariners must have played in six Inter Service matches since 2011. This criterion meant that the first match where caps could be won was the annual match against the Army Masters at Kneller Hall. Though none of the starting XV were in the running there were four possible caps to be won from players on the replacement bench. First to be called on, and therefore making history, was replacement backrow Wilf Rees. He was followed by scrum half Ian Jenkins and then replacement lock forward, Aidan Riley. Finally Paul Clark made it a quartet of ‘first’ caps being the last of the replacements made.
The Mariners now have their own ‘Capped Players’ page on the History of Navy Rugby website.
The award ceremony for the Mariners match is held in conjunction with the RN Women, who play at the same time. So after Rear Admiral Key had presented the first ever caps to Mariners he also presented three members of the RN Women with their first cap. The recipients were Amy Risker, who started at hooker, and two forward replacements, Helen Stevenson and Sarah Mitchell. The three bring the total number of capped women players to twenty-two. The full record of capped RN Women is also available on the History of Navy Rugby website.
In total the Royal Navy have capped seventeen players during the season. There were eight new caps for the Senior XV and this brings the total number of players capped by the Senior XV to 715. The RN Women capped five new players and finally the Mariners issued four caps.
Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones