U23’s Marching To A Familiar Tune
On Friday night, Navy U23XV captain, Edd Pascoe, will lead his side out for the opening match of the 2014 Inter Services Championship. He knows that preparation hasn’t been ideal due, to opposition cry offs, but he also knows that through his side there is an experienced core of players with previous U23, Sharks and Commonwealth Cup experience. As an accomplished member of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Band Service Edd is well used to the precision required for ceremonial duty. However as a talented jazz trombonist he knows that providing the ground rules are adhered to, then some creative improvisation can make for a powerful performance. The Navy team will need both on Friday.
Though at times disrupted, the U23XV season has been one of steady progress as the coaching team have brought the squad and the game plan together. Like their opponents, the Royal Air Force, they have had three warm up matches prior to the Championship opener. For the RAF they travel having recorded a good win over Cambridge University between two losses to Bedford Blues. The Royal Navy by contrast have built from their first outing defeat with two good wins against the Solent Invitational XV and Tottonians. With a solid week of preparation completed they know that they have the ability to lift their performance up to the next level required by representative rugby.
The RAF game will bring back happy memories for two of the squad. Jack Basher and Sam Davies were try scorers in the Royal Navy’s 27-15 win at RAF Halton last season and for both it was the start of a very successful year of rugby with Sam winning his first senior cap and Jack making his international debut for Malta. Both then had successful individual tours of New Zealand with the Commonwealth Cup side. Another Commonwealth Cup tourist was Sam Benzie, who made his U23 XV debut in the Halton match last year, and whose return to the squad will give a number of options to what looks to be a powerful midfield.
However skipper Edd Pascoe will know that it is up front where the battle will start and will most likely determine the outcome of the game. He has a number of strong ball carriers up front, not least himself, but will be all to aware that the foundations have to be laid first and that both the starting eight, and as importantly the run on replacements, must be ready for the hard graft up front to make sure that any RAF aspirations remain firmly grounded.
So Friday night representative rugby is back at US Portsmouth RFC. In the same week as a three metre canvas of the England 1914 Grand Slam winning side was unveiled by Twickenham, featuring three of US Portsmouth and the Royal Navy’s finest players WJA Davies and the two Harrisons, Harry and Arthur VC, Edd Pascoe and the Royal Navy U23s can write their own chapter in to the Burnaby Road history books. If they ever made it into a film, Edd could also pen the score.
Royal Navy U23XV v Royal Air Force U23XV, US Portsmouth RFC, Burnaby Road, Friday 14 November KO 19:00. Free entry.
RN U23XV team to be selected from: Adam Birkett, Harrison Marsh, Harry Potter, Jake Reynolds, Dewi Pearce, Edd Pascoe (Capt), Ben Roberts, Joe Burton, Chris McDonald, Tristan Trehan, Jack Basher, Jordan Pullinger, Jon Henty, Jordan Shuttleworth, Dave Coleman, Greg Loydall, Sam Carter, Sam Benzie, Sam Davies, James Shaw, Lewis Cooper, Luke Cooper, Sam Tyrer, Rory Penfold
14 November 2014 Royal Navy U23 XV v Royal Air Force U23 KO 19:00 US Portsmouth RFC
Article by Geraint Ashton Jones
Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones