Gone are the days when US Portsmouth could field many internationals in its famous hooped shirts but today’s club remains at the forefront of rugby innovation.
From the earliest days of rugby, in England, until the end of National Service US Portsmouth could regularly field a number of internationals in its side from the huge pool of talent that the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the Army in an around Portsmouth could provide. Today’s Portsmouth is very different and although the dockyard is currently building the next HMS Queen Elizabeth a famous son of US, WJA Davies who served on the original HMS Queen Elizabeth, would not recognise the club of today.
However Davies, a grand slam winning captain of England would have welcomed the initiative that was launched by another England grand slam (and World Cup) winner Phil Vickery. US Portsmouth are the first community club to launch a full-time academy in collaboration with Portsmouth College. The academy will serve two prime purposes. For students at the college it forms part of the BTEC course in Sports Performance and Excellence. Whilst for local schools it will provide the focus and impetus to give many more children the opportunity to try the game of rugby union.
The academy could not have happened without the support of US Portsmouth RFC, Portsmouth College, Portsmouth City Council and the sponsorship of Raging Bull, who are also the main sponsor of the rugby club. US Portsmouth’s Director of Rugby, Si Burns, is overseeing the academy which is being driven through the enthusiasm of two of the club’s community coaches, Dean Kedward and Will Brewer. Together with Portsmouth College Sports Academy Director, Tom Lloyd they provide the technical and coaching expertise to support the BTEC students and to run rugby sessions in the local schools. These sessions are built around the Rugby Football Union’s Core Value framework and ensure that the stars of tomorrow have the right grounding in the game and understand the importance of respect, discipline and of course enjoyment.
The academy was launched with a three way tournament between local schools Mayville, St Swithuns and Cottage Grove under the watchful eye of Phil and the US Portsmouth community team. Though Mayville ‘A’ were the eventual winners the real success was that all the teams had an enjoyable introduction to rugby.
Talking about the initiative during the tournament, Si Burns was quick to point out that without the generous support of Navy Rugby and Raging Bull the club would not have been able to have undertaken such a ground breaking project. He is keen to ensure that the club continues its development and becomes central to a thriving rugby community within the city. Whilst it will always exist to give servicemen, women and their families the opportunity to play rugby it is now an ‘open club’ and with partnerships, like the one with Portsmouth College, the club is keen to ensure that the next chapter of it’s illustrious history is an exciting one.