The Royal Navy Rugby Year Starts on Sunday

Ben Clarke scores for Navy U23s in last seasons match against Ealing
An U23XV newcomer last year, Edd Pascoe formed a good second row partnership with Marsh Cormack in New Zealand and was awarded CNRC Player of the Tour.
Sam Davies came of age in the cauldron of French Rugby that is the Stade Mayol, Toulon last season
Jack Basher had a year to remember, U23XV debut, first full cap for Malta, successful tour of New Zealand with the Senior XV
Eldon Myer made his U23 XV debut last season and walked out at Twickenham in May
Johnny Stephen, one of seven former U23Xv captains that toured New Zealand with the Senior XV

When the Royal Navy U23 XV start their 2014 Inter Service campaign against Ealing Trailfinders on Sunday, a twelve-month journey for Royal Navy Rugby begins.  U23 Inter Services in November, the Marine Nationale in April, Twickenham in May and hopefully the Twickenham Stoop in October 2015 – a great year awaits.  With the recent success of the U23s in discovering new talent, it is likely that one of the new boys on Sunday will be running out against the Army in front of 80,000 in May. With October’s International Defence Rugby World Cup he could also feature in the Finals to be held at the Twickenham Stoop in a year’s time.

On Sunday the U23 XV kick off their 2014 season by hosting the Ealing Trailfinders  Academy at US Portsmouth.  The season starts a little later this year due to the Royal Navy’s involvement in the Four Nations Maritime Cup in New Zealand.  However the success of some of the players on that trip should provide ample inspiration for this year’s squad.  Last year’s Brian Weeks Memorial Trophy winner, Edd Pascoe, backrow players Jack Tindle and Jack Basher along with three quarters Josh Jones and Sam Benzie, all returned with enhanced reputations.  Whilst the contributions of more regular Senior XV players, Sam Davies, Tom Davies, Kye Beasley, Mark Jones, Tom Blackburn, Ed Gaught, Jon Humphrey, Jonny Stephen and Ian Cooper confirmed the importance the U23s now play in the Royal Navy’s identification of it’s future players.

A number of the New Zealand touring party will be available later in the season but the Ealing Trailfinders will give the chance for the wider U23XV squad to demonstrate their skills.  With both sides committed to playing open, attacking rugby, Burnaby Road should host another match of running rugby with plenty of tries to keep the supporters happy.  With four games in consecutive weeks, three at their Portsmouth home, the U23XV will have little time to get up to Inter Service speed before they host the Royal Air Force on Friday 14 November.  By then we will not only know what chance Navy Rugby has of regaining the U23XV Inter Service title but also which young players may be the next star of the future.  For some Sunday could be the first game in a year of rugby they’ll never forget.

Royal Navy U23 XV v Ealing Trailfinders Academy KO 13:30 US Portsmouth RFC

Images by Alligin Photography / © G Ashton Jones & © John Walton