With the kind permission of Lt Col ND Witcombe, Commanding Officer of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) I have once again managed to combine military commitment with the sport I love. (Quiet at the back).
As the Army Rugby Unions’ (ARU) Rugby Development Officer my day job consists of rugby full time, keeping abreast of the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) latest initiatives and facilitating the continual professional development of the Army’s rugby coaches and officials.
Obviously I cannot do this on my own as the Army is a big place and the Army is very fortunate to have both referee and coach educators within its ranks; both in reservist and regular PIDS.
One of the challenges for the ARU is to maintain a robust pool of coaches available to soldiers outside of mainland UK. Hence why when British Forces Cyprus approached me to deliver coaching courses on the island I suggested the dates which married up with the Squadron deployment to the island.
The Tri-Service nature of the Cyprus assignments mean that there are many moving parts in getting 20 plus coaches all in the same place at the same time over multiple dates and Flight Sgt Phair RAF has been the man doing the donkey work over the past couple of months to pull it all together.
Rugby on the Island is somewhat confusing at the moment. The Union on Island is the Cyprus Rugby Federation (CRF) which comprises all teams (both military and civilian). The teams listed are Limassol, Paphos, Nicosia, RAF Akrotiri, Episkopi & Dhekelia. However; the only teams that can commit with any regularity are generally the military teams, with Episkopi being the league winners for the past 2 seasons.
The CRF appear to be going through a period of in-fighting following the senior team being defeated and hence stopping their world record. This has come to a head and for the next season the military teams have requested to be removed from the CRF to concentrate on playing our own fixtures.
The military teams have held numerous meetings where the CRF have requested that we stay in their league. This will be finalised at a meeting on 8 Jul 15 to determine the shape of the league next season. To compound matters both Paphos and Limassol have looked at the possibility of becoming members of the RFU. Nicosia are in a strange position as many of their players come from the UN and they have also prohibited members on Op TOSCA from participating under their own name.
Across Island, youth rugby appears to be desired at every level. Akrotiri have kids’ rugby training (although currently no coaches). Episkopi have recently collaborated with the WSBA High School (St Johns) to arrange a fixture against the Cypriot youth team. Despite only training for a matter of weeks, the Cypriots narrowly defeated the St Johns team. Once the coaching courses have been completed we hope to include kids’ rugby at Episkopi, which will coincide with the arrival of the new battalion over the summer.
The Tri-Service community are hoping to resurrect the team from Ay Nik, who had to leave the league due to their pitch not being permitted under IRB rules (they play on artificial grass). They now have the opportunity to use another pitch so we await to see the outcome.
There is also interest being shown from the North of the Island and we are looking to see where this will lead, as discussions with the ROC and Occupied North have recommenced. Hopefully this will open up another team to add additional fixtures.
From the view of Episkopi Garrison they are looking into partnership with clubs in the UK to try and get as much visiting teams interested in coming to Cyprus to develop the players out here, for each relevant service.
Into this somewhat confusing rugby environment Day One consisted of IRB Rugby Ready which is a safety course designed to introduce coaches to warm ups, cool downs, build-up of the front row and tackling safely amongst other topics.
Day Two consisted of the RFU Scrum Factory programme and as the name suggests is all about the building of a scrum safely and using body management and core stability to achieve a stable scrummage for the Backs to do their thing.
Both these two Pre-requisite courses are required to be completed prior to coaches being confirmed on the UKCC Level Two (Adult XV a side) Coaching course which is planned for delivery by the ARU in July 2015.
By continuing to support both Regular and Reservist sport, the Army Sports Control Board and in this particular case; the Army Rugby Union strive to ensure those that serve our Country are supported wherever they may play their sport.