RNRU Women announce new team captain

New RNRU Women's team captain Sam Alderson
Helen Stevenson, the new Women's Vice Captain in action against the French Navy in 2017
Two of the RNRU Women's most experienced players, Fredrickson and Jenkins.
Oli Critchley will start at scrum half

Both the Royal Navy Rugby Union Men's and Women's Senior XVs travel to Toulon to take on their French counterparts this week.  The Women's team are travelling with a new team at the helm.  Assistant Director of Rugby, Lieutenant Commander Paula Bennett-Smith, herself a veteran and former team captain of the RNRU Women's XV, and new Head Coach, Chief Petty Officer Martyn Ruskin, have selected the committed and experienced full back, Sam Alderson, as the new team captain.  Sam has been playing rugby since she joined the Navy in 2008 after attending a grass roots session while under training at HMS Collingwood and she hasn't looked back since.  She has been involved with the RNRU Women's team ever since and has notched up 11 representative caps and has also been selected to play for the Combined Services Women's team on three occasions. 

When asked how she felt Sam said "It is such an honour to be selected as captain; it is something I have always wanted to do.  Now I have been given the opportunity I will push myself as far as I can to help the team succeed in the goals we want to achieve." 

Standing alongside Sam will be fellow player, No 8, Helen Stevenson.  Helen started playing rugby aged 14 for Oxford RFC and then progressed to Reading Ladies RFC to play in their Senior Ladies XV.  She continued to play rugby while at university in Loughborough and was part of the team that reached the Universities final at Twickenham.  Helen has also done a bit of coaching for a senior Men's team in Barrow.  Since joining the Navy in 2013 she has returned to playing and has taken every opportunity to play with the Royal Navy Women, deployments and Operational Tours permitting!  Helen has won 9 representative caps and is looking forward to adding to her tally in France. 

"It is a really exciting time in Navy Women's Rugby and it is an honour to be asked to vice-captain such a great bunch of players." responded Helen when asked about Navy Women's Rugby.

Both players have been committed to playing rugby in the Royal Navy since early in their careers and have gone from strength to strength as their experience has grown.  Key members of the squad, both are highly respected by their team mates.  They lead by example both on and off the pitch, ensuring that all players live up to the core values of the RNRU and the Royal Navy.  Assistant Director of Rugby, Paula Bennett-Smith commented "Sam and Helen are an inspiration to any females wanting to join the Royal Navy and in particular to those already in the RN who want to play rugby and represent their Service.  We are keen to recruit new players so if you are a female who wants to follow in their footsteps please get in touch with us at info@navyrugbyunion.co.uk" 

Sam and Helen will be joined by team mates old and new on the trip to France.  Leading Writer Loz Salisbury is back in the team following time off on maternity leave and with her playing experience for Premiership team, Saracens, she will be looking to make an impact against the Marine National Feminines.

Joining Loz in the scrum will be Katie Ives, Emily Park, Kate Parkman, Yvonne Mealy, Emily Howard and Hannah Cole.  Oli Critchley will be starting as scrum half looking to win her 9th representative cap for the Royal Navy.  Fly half, Sarah Jenkins will make it 11 caps and she is one of the Navy Women's team's most experienced players.  Along with the new team captain, Billi Staite, Nic Elvidge, Cheryl Goodwin and Drew Powell make up the starting 15.  The replacements are a mix of experienced players and some newcomers, all keen to win their caps.  For the first time this year the rules for the winning of Women's caps have come in line with the Men's team, one cap per appearance in a qualifying match - which includes this fixture against the French Navy and the two Inter Service matches against the Royal Air Force and the Army later this season.  Charlotte Fredrickson, Kirsty Marlor, Emma Swinton and Taranivini Tuivaga will look to add to their representative honours while Abi Gilbertson, Abi Sondack, Rachel Carragher, Holly Till, Abi Ashby and Allanah Pope will hope to come off the bench to win their first cap.

The team know that the fixture against the French sailors will be a tough one.  The Women have yet to win against the French Ladies and trying to overcome the fierce opposition away from home will be an additional challenge.  But it is one that the RNRU Women are up for.  We wish them well for their match on Wednesday, kicking off at 1430 (French time).  Go Navy!     

Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton