Royal Navy Mariners’ coach sets out his stall for 2016

Paul Clark makes the transition from string puller to TSG
Jamie Philips and Inter Service Champions 2015
George Hillan presides over victory over RAF Vultures in his final season as Head Coach
Elvet ‘Taff’ Williams (2nd from right) and the U23 TSG celebrate the U23 Inter Service win.

It seems an age ago since Jamie Philips held aloft the Interservice Cup at Keller Hall on 9th May 2015.  Following some good wins against HM Prison Service, Taunton RFC and Torpoint RFC and coming close against typically strong teams including Havant and Torbay Sharks, the Mariners performed when they needed to; defeating the RAF Vultures 39-15 and then settling the Interservice decider against the Army Masters, beating them 20-15.

Since then the team have returned to their local clubs as well as playing key roles in recent RNRU fixtures including the Inverdale Cup which saw the Royal Marines defeat the Fleet Air Arm 28-12 at Burnaby Road.  Key to that success was Elvet ‘Taff’ Williams, the RM head coach, who has now stepped up to take on the head coach role for the RN(Mariners).

In order to find out more about the man hand picked to lead the Mariners to further success, the following questions were posed by Jamie Campbell-Baldwin.

Tell us about your rugby playing background?
Having the privilege of being a Welshman, I was made to play with a rugby ball from a young age. I started playing for a team when I was about 8 at Skewen RFC and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the sport. Throughout my childhood I moved around a lot and played for a number of teams like Morriston RFC, Birchgrove RFC and many more. Back in those days you got put into a position that the coaches chose, so up to the age of 12 I was made to play on the wing for club and hooker for school. So that helped make my mind up that the position I wanted was hooker. I have played for many civilian teams throughout my teenage/ adult years, and especially many Royal Marine unit teams.

How did you get into coaching........when did you start........and where have you coached previously?
I got into coaching when I was injured and whilst recovering I still wanted to be there in and amongst the training. This then gave me a taste of coaching which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I started coaching in about 2003 with the Unit rugby team at the time and since then I have been actively coaching teams. I have had the privilege of being the forwards’ coach of the Royal Marines and then I took over the head coach position of the Royal Marines from Maj Steve Melbourne MBE, and I have been head coach ever since. The last 2 years I have had the honour of being the Royal Navy U23s forwards’ coach, which was made even better a few months ago when we became the Interservice U23s champions. As a father of 2 daughters it was looking like there was going to be no rugby at home, however the Welsh blood kicked in and both girls have played for South Molton RFC junior section for the last 4 years whom I also coach.

You've joined the Mariners as head coach for the forthcoming season; what does the opportunity mean to you?
It's a massive opportunity for me taking over the Mariners from George Hillan who has handed over a great TSG and a great pool of players especially with the Mariners being the current Inter Service champions (No pressure).

What are you looking to introduce to Mariners this season either in coaching or on the playing side?
I’m not going to jump in to a set up that works and reinvent the wheel, but I will be looking at areas to finely tune or change if required. I think from our first game with the great help I’m already getting from the TSG, especially Andy Mcbeath, I want to push it out there to ALL the RN / RM over 35s that the Mariners is the team they want to be playing for.

Is there anything you'd like to add before the Mariners 2016 season begins?
This is the year that the Mariners WILL retain the Interservices trophy for the first time ever, not just through the new and old players / TSG but by the support that is deserved from the RN/ RM sports family. So I ask all of the Mariners age qualified players around the naval service to put your hands up and come and make sure we retain the trophy.

Following on from a successful 2015 for the Mariners and a triumphant start to 2016 for the new head coach, this relationship should bear fruit. There will be noticeable absentees; former head coach George Hillan to the RN Women’s XV where we wish him every success; last season’s captain, Jamie Philips who has emigrated to Australia to pursue a career in their army and Paul Clark who has joined the coaching staff (though we fully expect him to have his boots available). These individuals will be hard to replace.  Taff’s mission will be to bring together the squad and produce a winning ethos from the very first kick of the new season; a task he is more than equal to.

Update 26.01.16 - The Mariners first fixture against Torpoint RFC on the 27th Jan 16 has been cancelled.  Click here for full fixtures list.

Article by J Campbell-Baldwin.
Images by Alligin Photography © Geraint Ashton Jones © Lee Crabb