Royal Navy Rugby Union announce new Assistant Director of Rugby for U23s

Against the RAF Vultures 2017 with ball in hand
In the lineout against the Army Masters 2017
Going in for the tackle against Havant RFC

Jamie Campbell-Baldwin caught up with Aidan Riley, the newly appointed Assistant Director of Rugby for the U23s’ side.  He has taken up the mantle from Rob O’Kane who was instrumental in supporting the U23s’ Training Support Group (TSG) as they successfully defended their Inter Services’ trophy after a thrilling season against top-class age group and fully matured sides.

On taking over from a predecessor who had steered the Navy side to victory in 2015 and 2016 Aidan said "I am absolutely delighted to be selected as the Assistant Director of Rugby for the U23s and am looking forward to the challenge. I am not ideally located in Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, but will become infinitely more familiar with the coast road as I make my way to the home of Navy Rugby in HMS Temeraire; I will be looking to continue the fantastic work of Rob and to keep improving on the system that has placed a lot of silverware in the cabinet".

How do you intend to juggle your work commitments and your important new role?
Hard work, prioritisation and a love of commuting and, more importantly, rugby!

What are the biggest challenges you must guard against?
Complacency and availability. A lot of good players were discovered last season. I want to unearth even more being mindful that the boys will be playing a substantial amount of rugby outside of their U23 commitments. A careful balance will have to be struck to ensure we maintain a full and capable squad.

What has been the highlight of your rugby career?
Playing with Derek White [No.8 for Scotland and B&I Lions] as a teenager and winning the Veterans’ Inter Service competition in 2015 with the RNRU Mariners.

Can the Royal Navy retain the U23 Inter Service title and how do you solve the problem of finding the right players?
A straightforward and resounding: YES (‘great individuals; creating a greater team’). I was lucky enough to shadow/stand in for Rob last year while he was at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham. I have never worked with such an inspiring, professional and hard working group as the U23 squad last year. They played for each other as much as for themselves, selfless and magnanimous. The same can be said of the TSG. Finding the right players will never be easy but we are lucky enough to have the core of last year’s squad available and we shall endeavour to build on a winning formula; this includes a vital Trial Weekend and a very intensive period of games leading into the Inter Service campaign. I am really looking forward to the challenges.

As a long in the tooth, grizzled second row and having played rugby for a number of years, Aidan is capable of recognising aspiring talent. As an instructor and staff-walla with an unbridled enthusiasm for all things rugby, Aidan is well placed to guide, mentor and cajole as required in order to make the next crop of U23s as successful as the 2016 squad, if not more so. An admirer of hard work he will be slow to chide and quick to praise, while constantly looking to engender the RN ethos throughout.

Interview conducted by J Campbell-Baldwin

Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton, Mark Andrews and Keith Woodland