Twickenham Awaits – Double or Quits
Oh the problems of success! Having secured the U23 Inter Service crown before Christmas the U23 Service season transfers to the UKAF team and their annual match against the combined team representing Oxford and Cambridge Universities, held before the Army Navy match. As champions a good representation from the Royal Navy Rugby Union could be expected and indeed fifteen made the provisional squad. The problem? Well a number of them did quite well last Wednesday in the 50-26 victory away at Cambridge University, so why kick off at 12:00 when you can aim for 15:00 on 30th April 2016?
From a Navy Rugby point of view, it is a good position to be in and although it adds a complication, as the UKAF U23 XV prepare for their trial weekend and match against Ealing Trailfinders on Sunday, it is a headache any Director of Rugby should welcome. Indeed, Jarrard Hayler didn’t even make the original list of fifteen RN players selected, not a reflection on his ability, just an acknowledgement that on current form and baring injury he will be adding to his first cap won at last season’s Army Navy match.
Joining Hayler is Greg Loydall a former captain of the then CS U23s at Twickenham. He is remaining with the Senior XV squad as he seeks to win his coveted first Navy cap. However, the Senior XV have released Wednesday’s debutants Harrison Marsh, Ben Watson, James Griggs, Gareth John Rees, Rhys Dimmock-Williams, Ollie Mason, Joe Burton and Lewis Cooper. They will join up with Chris Robinson, Calum Cone, Mark Dowds, Tristan Trehan from this season’s RN U23 XV and also the returning Jordan Shuttleworth who ensured that all three scrum halves from the original UKAF selection were supplied by Navy Rugby.
Having come together for the first time on Thursday, the United Kingdom Armed Forces U23 XV play Ealing Trailfinders Select XV on Sunday 7 February at Ealing’s Vallis Way ground; kick off 14:00. After this weekend the smaller squad will be selected for the match at Twickenham. Of course a few of the players named will be hoping that they are made unavailable due to Senior XV requirements. The lure of Twickenham remains a great as ever but there is Twickenham and then there is the Army Navy match at Twickenham!
Good luck to all the Navy U23 players this weekend. Many are sure to run out in UKAF colours but for a few the later kick off remains an obtainable goal. As ever the situation with player availability remains fluid due to operational and training commitments. There will be a report on the match posted on the Royal Navy Rugby Union website next week
Images by Alligin Photography / © John Walton and © Geraint Ashton Jones