With the Navy team leaving next week for the 2012 Commonwealth Navies Rugby Cup (CNRC) being hosted by the Royal Australian Navy in Sydney it is an ideal opportunity to look at the current form of the three competing teams.
Royal Australian Navy
The second time that RAN have hosted the tournament having also been hosts in 2000. I am sure that the travelling ‘support’ members of each team will be hoping that the ‘Navy Breakers’ as the RAN team are known will be planning to release another celebratory bottle continuing the tradition of CNRC wine as released for the last Commonwealth Cup held in Plymouth. The RAN produced a 2005 Cabernet Merlot from Pankhurst Winery to celebrate the trip. Perhaps Pankhurst’s 2006 Pinot Noir or the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon would sit well alongside the 2012 tournament.
The CNRC is the last event in the Australian Navy’s Centenary Season and they will be looking to finish on a high. So far the season has been full of promise but hasn’t quite delivered. Following their 2011 Australian Inter Service victories over both Air Force and Army the Breakers had good representation in the inaugural International Defence Forces World Cup where they played in the Australian Defence Force team. This team reached the final where they succumbed to the British Army but it gives a number of their team that big match experience. The Defence Force side was captained by Breaker’s captain Jason Harrington and he was joined in the final by fellow Navy players James Smith, Tait O’Sulivan, Aaron Louden, Adam Powell and Dan Robertson.
2012 may look as if it hasn’t started so well for coach ‘Doc’ Docherty’s team. A narrow loss to the Australian Army meant that the Breakers were unable to retain their Inter Service title and the loss of one of their training camps due to heavy rain hasn’t helped preparations. However Doc, in his last season as Head Coach, had to play a number of youngsters in the Inter Services due to some established players being deployed. He will have been pleased with the way they performed and now has the advantage of slightly more strength in his squad for the CNRC campaign.
Form coming in to the tournament.
2011 – Inter Service Champions
RAN v RAAF – won 32 – 0
RAN v Australian Army – won 25 – 22
Royal New Zealand Navy v Royal Australian Navy for the Shelford-Stokes Shield (held in New Zealand) – drew 6 -6 (RNZN retain the shield)
2012 – Inter Service Runners Up
RAN v RAAF – won 42 – 3
RAN v Australian Army – lost 33 – 29
Royal New Zealand Navy
As mentioned above the RNZN enter the 2012 Commonwealth Navies Rugby Cup as the holders of the Shelford-Stokes Shield which is competed for each time the RAN and RNZN senior rugby sides meet. The trophy was coincidentally inaugurated at the last Commonwealth Cup held in the UK in 2009. It is named after former All Black and RNZN Navy player Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford and Geoff Stokes who did so much for the development of Australian Navy rugby as their coach in the 90s and returned to mastermind their 2005 Inter Service winning campaign.
The last match was a hard fought 6-6 draw at home which was a game not played in the best of conditions and though having home advantage the Kiwi’s will have been pleased to subdue the buoyant Breakers side. Though the very wet conditions were probably a match leveller the New Zealnd number 8 and man of the match Damian Gibbs demonstrated that good players can adapt to any conditions. UK rugby followers will remember that Damian was man of the match when the RN hosted RNZN in 2009. The RNZN team will also be buoyed by their Dowlett Cup success.
The Dowlett Cup is played between the RAN and RNZN U21 sides. In early 2011 the RNZN were convincing winners on home soil 44-8 and they backed this up by travelling to HMAS Cerberus on Armistice Day to record a narrow 24-23 win away from home.
It is clear that the RNZN have some very talented youngsters coming through. Amongst them is Jo Tuala who has experienced the delights of playing at Twickenham following the 2011 Help For Heroes match where he was the youngest player on show. The RN will also need to watch out for the talents of Karl Furey, RNZN Young Sportsman of the Year. Karl’s rugby ability have been recognised with membership of the North Harbour Rugby Academy whilst his off loading game greatly helped the New Zealand Defence Force side in last year’s Defence World Cup.
The Breakers will already know about the young Kiwi talen but others that the RN will need to look out for will include Dane Edge, Keyn Nepe, Nicky Matchitt and a name that commentators would surely love Teau Papa Ngarongo-Porima.
Form coming in to the tournament.
RNZN Inter Service Results not available
Holders of Shelford-Stokes Shield & Dowlett Cups
Only team to have beaten the RN in Commonwealth Cup competition (2006 RN 10 – RNZN 20)
The Navy squad selected for the 2012 CNRC is a mix of experience and youth and is charged with keeping the RN’s winning sequence. Seven U23 players have made the squad so for those of us watching the U23 campaign in the UK this autumn we are sure to see some new, undiscovered, talent.
On the experience front Dave Pascoe is playing in his fifth Commonwealth Cup and his second in Australia. He is joined by the very experienced lock pairing of Marsh Cormack (4th CNRC) and Stu McLaren along with London Welsh player Gaz Evans and star centre Dale Sleeman.
Though still U23 the RAN and RNZN will remember prop Josh Terry from the 2009 Commonwealth Cup where he had a successful tournament in the colours of the RNRU President’s XV whilst by the end of the tournament they will hopefully know a great deal about some of the Navy’s other exciting talent which hopeful will kick on during the tour. Young player of the year Nathan Huntley will probably be the senior flyhalf and have the ever more experienced Seti Raumakita seeking to provide the link ball on which he thrives. Outside him he has the exciting Jon Humphrey and Tom Davies who both excited during the recent Sharks season along with the Blackburn brothers of Loz and Josh.
Back in the pack Lee ‘Tommo’ Thompson will provide good ball carrying capability and should provide an intriguing match up with the Kiwi’s Gibbs. Tyler Smart brings an intelligent footballing brain to the backrow whilst Euan Cowie brings great calmness to the combative area of the front row and will hopefully ensure that Kye Beasley works hard to continue to develop his obvious potential.
Those from the Corps will be pleased to see that Tom Holiday’s excellent performances in the recent Argyle Bowl have been rewarded with inclusion in the squad.
The full squad is those named above plus Sam Winfield, Ed Gaught, McCardle, Dan Richardson, Puleston, John Clay, Nick Bell and Greg Wellings. Apologies for the two first names I am missing.
Commonwealth Navy Barbarians – CNRC Baa Baas
The Baa Baa side is selected from players’ performances during the competition and has proved to be the most enjoyable of competition finales. It serves to remind all of the values that are held dear in both rugby football and also world Navies. This year the team’s opposition will be Sydney University a choice that I for one believe is inspired.
Australian Rugby – A Potted History
Sydney University is the oldest rugby club in Australia (1864) and also one of the oldest clubs in the World. It pre-dates the forming of the Rugby Football Union in 1871 and as such existed in those times when the Laws of the Game were fluid and still in their early days of codification. In Melbourne the locals took to a form of the ‘football game’ that eventually developed in to Aussie Rules and but for the battle of the University (44 students at the time) the modern Union game may not have kept its foot hold in the country. Keeping rugby going in such circumstances was not easy and 1868 and 1869 were particularly troublesome years due to lack of opposition and trouble with water logged pitches. Fortunately the Royal Navy’s ship on station (HMS Rosario) was keen on rugby and it is acknowledged that fixtures between the Sydney University Rugby Club and the Royal Navy helped keep the game alive in those formative years.
New Zealand Rugby – A Potted History
The town and the university of Nelson (postal addresss Trafalgar Square!) are accepted as the origins of the game of rugby union in New Zealand. The town v gowns being the first recorded match in May 1870. The game had been introduced to Nelson by Charles John Monro. However up in the North Island at the same time the rugby playing ship, of the Australian Station, HMS Rosario was also organising rugby matches in Auckland. In Huw Richard’s excellent book ‘A Game for Hooligans’ he notes the first recorded match in Auckland, in June 1870, being between HMS Rosario and a local side. An eye witness account recalls “The game was played in the Albert Barracks and it rained pitchforks and rivulets and as we Auckland players stood under the verandah I, for one, almost hoped our opponents would not turn up, but shortly afterwards in marched the officers and sailors, bearing goalposts and a ball. The rules were of the nondescript sort, no offside, no picking up and no holding but shoving was indulged.” Later , in 1883, the Auckland Rugby Union was formed although they did adapt their rules to be closer to those played in the South Island.
One of the key duties of the Royal Navy’s ship on the Australian station was to prevent the illegal (and at times forced) immigration of South Sea Islander labour in to the burgeoning Queensland labour force. It is therefore ironic that the ship that was on station to protect the Island nations, helped introduce and develop the game of Rugby Union which has probably done as much to put the prodigious sporting talent found in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga et al on the world stage.