Chairman’s Christmas Message

As is customary at this time of year it is my pleasure to update you on the Union’s progress, but before I do so I would like to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to all people who made the past year such a success and to those who continue to support the Union.

We held our Annual Meeting for Member Clubs at HMS Temeraire at the end of November.  Here members of the Executive Committee presented a round-up of activity over the past year and answered questions from member clubs.  I remarked to our President, Admiral Ben Key, at the end of the meeting that this was probably the most interactive and informative AGM of my tenure as Chairman and I was delighted with the contributions made which will see Navy Rugby continue to go from strength to strength. 

During the meeting my successor as Chairman of the RNRU, Commander Andy Kellett, was formally nominated and accepted.  A former Senior XV player and Director of Rugby, with a great deal of RNRU experience, I know the Union will be in good hands.  He and I will handover in the summer, but I will not be going far as I will be succeeding John Cunningham, who retires from the RN early next year, as the RFU Council Member.  John has completed 6 years in this role and gained a very strong reputation within the RFU; it is only fitting that I thank him publically for his considerable contribution and wish him all the best in the next stage of his career.

Another significant change in personnel sees Admiral Neil Morisetti step down as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, a role he has held for 4 years; he hands over to Admiral Matt Parr in February 2018.  Admiral Neil has been a stalwart supporter of the RNRU, including a stint as President between 2007 and 2010, and his personal drive and guidance has been instrumental in establishing both the Board of Trustees and Navy Rugby Limited.  As a result we have a robust governance mechanism and secure foundation on which to build.  By now you will of course be aware that Admiral Neil was elected to be an Honorary Life Member of the Union in recognition of his considerable contribution.  It was also entirely fitting that Ash Coates was recognised in a similar manner on his retirement from the Service.  Ash’s sustained dedication, passion and resilience have been key in ensuring the continued development of the Senior XV, with an obvious highlight being winning the Inter-Service Championship in 2016.

On the field, the season has begun well, with the U23s making history by claiming a third consecutive Inter-Service Championship!  Although they displayed a few nerves on the night and almost let the Army in at the end, they held on for a 19-19 draw which, following a comprehensive victory over the RAF, was sufficient to retain the trophy.  A nerve-racking but highly entertaining and rewarding evening!  Congratulations to all the players and Training Support Group and I am pleased to hear that a number of members of the team will be joining the Senior XV training camp in February.
 
We continue our efforts to grow the game across the RN. We increased the numbers playing 7s rugby (totalling 85) adding a female 7s team and a men's development side to our representative 7s side (the RNRU Sharks) who attended a number of tournaments across the South Coast throughout the summer months; we have established a Women’s development team; last season we delivered 77 grass roots sessions involving 1850 individuals, as well as appointing referees to 75 fixtures.  In total across the community area, 110 hours of rugby was played worldwide, from Unit sides to the President’s XV, and across the full spectrum of 15s, 10s, 7s and beach rugby. Below is a graphical summary to show the depth and breadth of our community activity.


 
Looking forward, the representative season ‘kicks off’ in January with the Men, Women and Mariners all beginning their fixtures as part of the annual build up to the Inter-Services in April/May. Former RNRU team captain, Chief Petty Officer Dave Pascoe, has been selected as the Head Coach for the Seniors and we also have a new Head Coach for the Women, Chief Petty Officer Martyn Ruskin.  We wish the 2 new coaches all the very best for the coming season and are looking forward to seeing their teams in action.  The Commonwealth Navies Cup will now be contested solely between the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Navy, with the both the USMC and New Zealand Navy withdrawing; this match will take place on 8 March 2018 at Plymouth Albion.  Another key date for you diary is the RAF Match on 20 April.  Building on the success at Twickenham and as part of the RAF’s 100 Years Campaign, we have hired the Stoop and are hoping to grow this fixture over the coming years; so please help us drum up support.  Details of tickets and timings are on our website.

One final event I wish to draw your attention to is the Annual Dinner on Friday 22 June 2018 - please save the date.  This seeks to bring together players, volunteers, sponsors, key stakeholders and life members as part of our ‘all of one company’ approach within Navy Rugby, ensuring we continue to connect past with present, and thus safeguard the legacy of which we are all so proud.  Further details will be sent in the New Year.

All that remains for me to do is to wish you and your families a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.  I hope to see many of you on the touchline in 2018.  There are plenty of events in our structured season; please bring your friends along as opportunities exist for coaches, players, officials, volunteers and spectators.  We want you all to be involved in developing the club, growing our network and membership, and promoting the brand and values of the RNRU.

Brigadier Ewen Murchison DSO MBE, Chairman Royal Navy Rugby Union.