The countdown has begun for this year’s Army v Navy rugby at Twickenham on Saturday 13 May: the climax of the 2023 Inter Service Championship. And with the Royal Navy the only team able to spoil the Army’s day, there is everything to play for.
For Leading Engineering Technician Marine Engineer (LETME) Richard Ives, a Prop for the Royal Navy squad, the stakes are even higher. As a local lad, he played all his juniors and mini matches at Twickenham Rugby Club, continuing to play as much as he could after joining up. Ives then left the Navy in 2008, but rejoined in 2018, playing for Esher Rugby Club and in New Zealand during the interim. Ives was back in the Squad just 12 months
after rejoining the Navy and played at Twickenham last year for the first match following the enforced two-year break.
On being asked why this game is so special, Ives said: ‘It’s kind of the pinnacle of Armed Forces sport really. It’s the most watched event as far as I’m aware. If you say you play Rugby for the Navy the next question is always ‘Have you played at Army v Navy because the squad can be 30 you only have 15 players on the pitch at any time and there’s only so many subs. Some are always going to miss out. There’s a lot of excitement and a little bit of
stress on the journey to get there on the day because you just want to play and put out a good performance and, most importantly for the Navy, we don’t do it as often as we’d like so chasing that win is really important.’
One of the coaches also feels a connection with Twickenham; he walked past the stadium every day for about a year when at Kingston University. Having taken up rugby during his school years for Suffolk and Eastern Counties, Lt Cdr Andy Vance continued at university as part of the Harlequins U21s. After representing both the Navy and Combined Services as a player, Vance has continued in the sport and is now the Navy Senior XV Backs Coach.
Commenting on how the sport has changed Vance says: ‘I would say, and I think a lot of coaches would agree, that it’s a lot more challenging in attack now. Rugby has developed through the years with more analysis and I think defence is the easier thing to get right. As such, we now find that a lot of teams have the fitness, strength and positioning, and a stronger defensive understanding so you get a good solid defence across the whole of the pitch. That is much harder to break down than it was, say ten, fifteen years ago. It’s a lot more coordinated and more robust and, as such, your attack has to be on point.”
Kick off is 2pm for the Senior Men’s Army v Navy. The women’s match follows at 4.45pm. For more information about Inter Service Rugby visit, and to check the latest travel updates: https://www.armynavymatch.org.uk/64/inter-service-matches