Navy Development Making Progress
As much of the focus naturally turns to the 2009 Inter Service Championship it is worth spending some time to look at how the younger talent within the Union is being nurtured and gradually brought through. Last season's success story was Wayne Dugan who following his success in the 2007 U23 Inter Service championship went on to win his cap against the RAF the following April and capped his debut at Twickenham with a well taken score. Although he has been out of action all season due to a complicated break of his leg his rehabilitation has been closely monitored and he was back training with the Senior squad this last week. He found a number of familiar faces. His centre partner from the U23 has now broken in to the squad as one of four members from 845 Squadron based at RNAS Yeovilton. Very well known and equally well respected by the rugby league fraternity Lewis Taylor is quickly showing the union followers why he is so highly rated. At scrum half Jonny Stephens (CTCRM) started his first Senior XV match in the win over Marine Nationale to continue the rich seam of talent the Navy has at scrum half. Whilst it is most likely that he will be representing Combined Services U23 against England Students on 2 May both the current Navy scrumhalves, club captain Dave Pascoe, and team captain for the win against the Irish Defence Forces know that they have a real challenger snapping at the heals. Though not having come through the U23 ranks the group of talented young backs are joined by HMS Cumberland's Dale Sleeman. Unavailable for the U23 season due to deployments his progress has been nurtured by former Navy centre come flyhalf Dave Sibson, who as part of the current Navy coaching team and shipmate on board is ideally placed to mentor the powerful running 20year old centre. The recent trip to Ireland also served to give some more members of the U23 team their first Senior XV opportunities. At fullback Aaron Hansen, another based at RNAS Yeovilton is an exciting prospect for the future whilst HMS Ark Royal's young lock forward Kevin Macrossan demonstrated why former Navy U23 Head Coach, Doc Cox rated him so highly. Front row is another area where player development has been most productive. With last year's U23 prop Kyle Mason (RNAS Yeovilton) already firmly established, his position is already under challenge from HMS Thunderer's Tom Blackburn and HMS Collingwood's Luke Marks. Both are developing into strong mobile props who are comfortable with the ball in hand. Finally young Gareth Jones (RNAS Yeovilton) has been reminding Navy Rugby why, before he broke his leg, he was considered such a promising prospect in 2007. The U23 stalwart has put in two very effective performances against both the Irish Defence Forces and Marine Nationale where his reading of the game helped him contribute to probably the Navy's try of the season. With a number of other very talented youngsters currently unavailable due to Operations and Deployments but being closely monitored, the future is looking bright both for Navy Representative rugby and also at Command and Unit level.