The RNRU was founded in 1906 to administer the playing of rugby union in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines). The Head office is currently in HMS TEMERAIRE alongside the Burnaby Road playing facilities in Portsmouth; home fixtures are also routinely played at the Rectory in Plymouth.
The Union has two Voting Member clubs of the Rugby Football Union: United Services Portsmouth and Devonport Services, plus 54 Non-Voting Member clubs from ships, establishments, squadrons, units and Commands across the Navy who regularly play rugby.
We field five representative teams: Senior XV, Under 23s, Women, Veterans (colloquially known as the Mariners) and Sevens (the Sharks). Occasionally a President’s XV is selected to play in specific tournaments or invitational matches; the President’s XV has recently toured Estonia, playing two International games against Estonian Barbarians and the Latvian National side, before taking part in the Estonian Rugby Football Union International Rugby Festival.
The culmination of the season is the Inter-Service Championship including the prestigious Army v Navy fixture at Twickenham. Although the first of these matches took place in 1878, the fixture became annual and part of the Inter-Service Competition in 1907; this was expanded to include the Royal Air Force in 1920. The Royal Navy has won the Inter-Service Championship nineteen times.
Aside from the Inter-Service matches the Senior XV also play an annual fixture against the Marine Nationale (France) and also competes in the Commonwealth Navy’s Cup, a competition contested every 3 years between the Navies from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and the UK; the Royal Navy have won the Cup on each occasion, with the exception of 2014, when the RNZN won. Success at the representative level and the Inter-Service Championship, specifically the annual fixture against the Army at Twickenham, is a central pillar of Royal Navy rugby. However, we are also developing our structures and facilities and investing heavily in grass roots and community rugby to provide the foundation to improve our five representative teams.
Ships, units and squadrons also play worldwide, as very clearly demonstrated by HMS ARGYLL in 2014. During a six month deployment from the UK, eleven rugby matches were played in ten different countries, including in three National Stadiums. A total of 53 members of the crew played for their Ship, some who had never passed a rugby ball before.
The RNRU is proud to be involved with hosting teams for the Rugby World Cup as they prepare for the event. The USA Eagles were based in Portsmouth at HMS TEMERAIRE and the Namibian Welwitschias (African Fish Eagle) were based in Devonport.
And to the future, and the legacy of the Rugby World Cup and the International Defence Forces Competition in 2015? The RNRU is looking to enlarge the Navy rugby community, encouraging new players, coaches, referees, volunteers and supporters to this wonderful game. Sport plays a huge part in Service life and rugby includes the core values of the Royal Navy, including Respect and Discipline, which are ‘Core Values’ shared with the Rugby Football Union.
The RNRU works to ensure that rugby football is fun, relevant, successful and sustainable, inspiring all those who participate to enjoy the game at all levels, from mess deck to international, whilst reflecting all that is best in the Royal Navy.
|JOSH JONES||UTILITY BACK|
|CDR MARK DELLER||RNRU DOR|
|CPO ASH COATES||HEAD COACH|
|WO1 RN DON SHAW||GAME MANAGER|
|CPO DAVE PASCOE||COACH|
|MAJ RM SCOTT ASHLEY||COACH|
|POPT KARL THORPE||S&C|
|LPT SIAN JENKINS||ASSISTANT MANAGER|
|SURG LT CDR AL STANNING||MATCH DOCTOR|
|FT LT RICH SUTHERLAND||PHYSIOTHERAPIST|
Ash Coates became involved with the RNRU in 2007, firstly coaching the RN Ladies team, progressing to Senior Analyst in 2008 before taking over his first spell as RNRU Head Coach in 2012. He coached the team to success in the 2012 Commonwealth Navies Cup in Australia before Operational Duties enforced a break from his rugby commitments. He was the Head Coach for the Combined Services team that defeated the Barbarians in the 2013 Remembrance Day match. Ash is now relishing the opportunity to take on the role of Head Coach Royal Navy Senior XV again, and while on the face of it, this last season was tough at times, Ash remains confident that the developing performances we saw during the season, were actually the beginning of something much better to come. Like everyone else, he is very much looking forward to the IDRC competition, particularly the matches at Portsmouth.
Ash lives in Boston Lincolnshire with his wife Sarah and daughters Hollie and Jasmine.