Indeed the British Army was exporting rugby to far distant places for 50 years before the formation of the Army Rugby Union in 1907.
William Webb Ellis, who in 1823 ‘ran with the ball’ at Rugby school, was the son of a British Army officer. The earliest Army match was Cavalry v Infantry at Balaclava, Crimea in1855, just 12 months after the famous Charge of the Light Brigade.
The Army first played against the Royal Navy at the Oval cricket ground on 13th February 1878. The Army captain Lieutenant AR Bannatine failed to report as he was participating in the march on Kabul and Kandahar in Afghanistan. The Navy, with the extra man, just won.
In 1908 the Army confirmed it would play in Red shirts. The following season King George V bestowed uniquely on the Army the Royal Cipher ‘K-V-G’ to be embroidered on the left chest. The modern equivalent, shown above, is the cypher of our Patron, Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1913 the Navy proposed the annual match be moved to Twickenham but the 1914-18 Great War intervened, with the loss of many wonderful players. It was eventually played on 28th February 1920, the year the newly formed Royal Air Force joined the competition.
Since 1945 the British Army in Germany has enjoyed a good standard of rugby playing Cup and Corps competitions, as well as the national sides of Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and of course the RAF. Indeed one ‘British Army’ club was stationed in Paris and never seemed to lack for fixtures!
Brigadier Brian McCall capped by Ireland in 1985 is the senior international still serving in the Army. Apolosi Satala (Royal Scots) captain of Fiji at XVs and 7s made a huge impact on the Army game in the 2000s whilst Samesa Rokoduguni (Royal Scots Dragoon Guards) represented England against the All Blacks in 2014.Many have represented their country at Sevens.
Since 1920, when the RAF joined thecompetition,the Armyhas won the Inter – Services Championships 45 times.
This actually is a huge tribute to the smaller RN and RAF who have excelled at various stages of their own history. Maybe winning 12 times since 2000 provides an insight into the realities of the modern game.
Now in 2015 Rugby Union is arguably the premier sport of the British Army.
When the game became professional at the end of the 20th Century the Army was well placed to introduce change. A new stadium was built in Aldershot in 1997 and the Union was restructured, in line with the professional era, to include more competitive rugby. These changes, which were ambitious and overturned a tradition that had stood for nearly 100 years, were completed over 10 years and now include four competitions for Army regiments, Inter Corps Championships for men and women together with Tens and Sevens competitions for men and women.
At representative level the Army now features the Senior XV, an ‘A’ XV to promote promising players, an Under 23 XV, a Women’s team and a Veterans’ Over 35 team. The Senior XV, the Women and Veterans take part in the annual BABCOCK Inter Service matches.
The season ends with the annual BABCOCK Army v Navy match at Twickenham which has been played, except during major Wars, since 1878.
|IFEREIMI BOLADAU||BACK ROW|
|MAKULUSIO KOROIYADI||BACK ROW|
|KNOXY LAQEKERO||BACK ROW|
|JOE NAYACAVOU||BACK ROW|
|MATTHEW LAMONT||BACK ROW|
|SAM RICHARDSON||BACK ROW|
|TOM CHENNELL||SCRUM HALF|
|APOROSA VATA||SCRUM HALF|
|JACK PRASAD||FLY HALF|
|CHRIS LEATHAM||WING/FULL BACK|
|CAPT NICK DERMOTT||MANAGER|
|MAJ ANDY SANGER||HEAD COACH|
|CAPT WAYNE BURNARD||ASST. COACH|
|WO2 GARETH EVANS||ASST. COACH|
|SSGT JAMIE DOIG||KIT MANAGER|
|MAJ PAUL GITTENS||DOCTOR|
|LT COL STACY MCQUEENEY||LEAD PHYSIO|
|WO1 GERYN JONES||DOCTOR|
Major Andy Sanger,Head Coach to the British Army XV, is well suited to the role having played and coached at all Army representative levels in both the Union and League codes.
Andy grew up in the Welsh valleys in Caerphilly—a hotbed of serious rugby. He played for Bedwas School and then joined the local town club.
He was awarded many Army caps at centre in the mid-90s before joining London Welsh. During an extended playing career he toured Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, the USA and Canada.
Whilst playing Union he also tried his hand at League and in 1994--95 was a member of the Wales set-up but never capped. He played in the first Army RL match in 1994 and has remained a dual coded player throughout his career.
During the early 2000s Andy was very much involved in military operations. As a bomb disposal expert he served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia. He was commissioned into the Royal Engineers and found a little more time to follow his passion for rugby.
He returned to the Army Union game in 2010. His Army side was successful at IDRC 2011 in Australia and New Zealand and he is much looking forward to meeting old friends in England and renewing the competition.