RNRU Representatives get the lay of the land at Rugby HQ

RFU President Peter Baines and RFU CEO Ian Ritchie welcome the visitors.
RNRU representatives Jamie Campbell-Baldwin, Clare Valentine, Bali Salisbury and George Hillan.

The RFU promotes its aims and objectives through its Constituent Body (CB) members.  The RNRU is one of these bodies and as such is routinely invited to send members to a familiarisation day at Twickenham.  On this occasion the lucky volunteers were coaches George Hillan and Bali Salisbury, Mariners’ player & Communications Team member Jamie Campbell-Baldwin, and Assistant Secretary Clare Valentine.  With other CB members coming from as far north as Cumbria and Yorkshire and as far west as Cornwall and Devon the RFU rugby map was well represented.

The open day provided an opportunity to talk to like-minded people and listen to those closely associated with the wider amateur aspects of the game. The delegates were warmly welcomed by RFU President, Peter Baines, who outlined the running order of the day and introduced the key speakers, foremost of whom was Ian Ritchie, RFU Chief Executive Officer.

Mr Ritchie brought a chuckle to the room when humbly taking responsibility for England’s downfall in an otherwise resoundingly successful Rugby World Cup 2015.  Amongst the positives that he alluded to was the rapid growth of the women’s game and the process of building an elite team by putting the systems in place to retain the RWC 2017.  Parallels can be drawn within the RNRU, with the Women’s TSG keen to develop the female player base and encourage more women to play rugby thus hopefully helping to grow talent for the future.

He placed the majority of the ownership of the growth the game on the CBs and encouraged each Body to use imaginative and creative ideas to increase participation with the backing of the RFU sponsored ‘Return to Rugby’ initiative.  He expressed he was keen to build on the success of the Olympics to grow the Rugby 7s game which should also help grow the 15-a-side game. Keen to give examples he explained that there had already been £3billion investment in both community and professional rugby including 100 national artificial pitches – all part of the RFU strategic plan.

Will Carling, the former England captain, infamously referred to the RFU's committee as "57 old farts" during a Channel 4 broadcast of the Fair Game programme. The 57 individuals he referred to were the voting members (now increased to 60) of the RFU Council.  His comment was of its time and has lost resonance over recent years as the RFU has developed.  It is these Council Members who provide the governance for the way the game is played and administered in England and the RNRU is represented on this body by voting member, Cdr John Cunningham (certainly NOT an old fart!).

Simon Winman, RFU Head of Club Development, talked about developing ‘Pathways’, a recruitment and succession route to ensure that the committee is revitalised on a rotational basis. Similarly the RNRU, at the CB level, endeavours to emulate this process by growing coaches and managers to move upwards to ever-more challenging roles.  He also talked about Youth Rugby Ambassadors (YRA), a programme giving individuals the opportunity to gain recognition for their involvement in supporting rugby - with countless ways to get involved, the individual benefits from professional skills to free stash!  Check out the link if you are interested in finding out more.

For those who have other aspirations he explained the importance of the ‘Leadership in Union’ programme which is a custom-made leadership programme designed and delivered by Ashridge Executive Education to help individuals become the best possible leader they can be for their Constituent Body and the game.  The RNRU’s first applicant is already on the residential course and I am sure when finished Lt Cdr Lynne Martin (Women’s Assistant Director of Rugby) will share her newly developed skills with the RNRU.

As the day drew to a close the RNRU representatives were taken on a tour around Twickenham, visiting the places only the lucky few get to see including the home team dressing room, the members’ lounge, the committee room and one of the sumptuous hospitality boxes.  The tour drew a close at the Rose and Poppy Gates which were unveiled on 29 April 2016, on the eve of the Army v Navy match, as a memorial to the rugby players who gave their lives during WW1 and WW2.

On a less sombre note, following a quick visit to the Rugby Store, the team bumped into England Head Coach Eddie Jones.  When asked how he was doing, he replied in his own grumpy-come-genial fashion, “You’ll have to ask me again on Nov 12th”, alluding to England’s first match of the Autumn Internationals against South Africa.  After the insightful discussion with England Rugby’s top man, the representatives left London impressed by the warmth of the welcome and the willingness of the hosts and speakers to engage.

An annual event, if you feel you would benefit from a visit to HQ to gain a better understanding of the wider RFU and the roles of the Constituent Bodies, keep a lookout on the website for the 2017 advertisement for volunteers.  There is also the opportunity to attend the RNRU Member Clubs Annual General Meeting in HMS Temeraire on Thursday, 1st December 2016, further details to follow.

Article by J Campbell-Baldwin.
Images © Leo Wilkinson Photography

Army v Navy - Babcock trophy - Twickenham Stadium - Saturday 29th April 2017
Tickets for the 2017 Army v Navy match will go on sale on Tuesday 1st November 2016. The 2017 match will be the 100th Army v Navy match since the formation of the Royal Navy Rugby Union and the Army Rugby Union in 1906.  Tickets can be purchased from the 1st November 2016 through the Royal Navy Rugby Union #GoNavy