In 2020 the Army Women and Royal Navy Women will run out from the West stand on to the hallowed Twickenham turf for the first time in history. Since the first Women’s Inter Services match in 2003, the goal of playing at Twickenham Stadium has been held by many of the pioneers of the Service Women’s game.
1920 was a very special year for Service rugby. With the end of the Great War the newly formed Royal Air Force Rugby Union joined with the Army and Royal Navy to compete in the first Inter Service Rugby Championship. Both the matches involving the Royal Air Force were played at The Queen’s Club, London, but the Army v Navy match (which had been played at the restricted capacity Queen’s Club since 1907) made its move to a new venue, one that would be hosting its first ever Service rugby match: Twickenham Stadium. Who knew then that it would later become known as the Home of England Rugby. The Men’s annual Army v Navy match has taken place at Twickenham Stadium every year since 1920, with the exception only of the World War II years.
Fast forward 100 years from that monumental move, and we see Twickenham Stadium playing host to the 2020 Army v Navy Match; a match that brings the curtain down on a centenary of Inter Service Rugby. In past years the Women’s Army v Navy match has been played at locations different to the Men’s matches; often at Kneller Hall (a pitch adjacent to Twickenham stadium) and last year at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth. But in 2020, 100 years since the Men’s match moved there, the Army Women and Royal Navy Women will also play at Twickenham Stadium, and just as with the Men’s match in 1920, it is the Army v Navy rivalry that will take centre stage at what is now a very different Twickenham Stadium.
The Army Women and Royal Navy Women will be realising something that is a dream for so many rugby players of all ages and abilities; the chance to walk out into the glorious Twickenham ground, with its exhilarating atmosphere and unparalleled rugby spirit. The two sides will be following in the footsteps of Maxine Edwards when she led her England side out to play the first Women’s International held at Twickenham Stadium, in 2003. Her comments before that first game remain true today and will no doubt be shared by many of the Army and Navy players: “Just as everyone in football always wanted to play at Wembley, so everyone in rugby wants to play at Twickenham. It is awesome to think we are playing there.”
Those thoughts are likely to be mirrored by Royal Navy player Susan Badger who was brought up with football, playing for England Colleges, before the switch to rugby. And yes, Twickenham has replaced Wembley as her field of dreams. “Every day in my Naval role I work with sailors who are recovering from injury, and I know that having a goal is essential to the success of that process. It is the same for me with rugby and for all of the Royal Navy squad. So many have worked so hard to grow the women’s game in the Royal Navy for over twenty years and now finally to have the opportunity to play at Twickenham is just fantastic.”
Susan’s thoughts are echoed by the Army’s (Ireland International) Sarah Mimnagh. “Playing international rugby is amazingly special, but to be able to represent my Service at Twickenham Stadium as well really is a unique and humbling opportunity. Wearing the Army red has always filled me with immense pride. It is going to be a great day.”
A great day indeed and for the Army Women, the goal will be to regain the Inter Service title (currently held by the Royal Air Force). For the Royal Navy Women they know that they asked some difficult questions of the Army team last year without quite getting the victory they wanted. Will the occasion lift their performance further still? Perhaps for both sides the encouraging words of Maxine Edwards, shared before the test against France 16 years ago, will hold true: “I’ll tell the girls to savour the occasion but, to remember the day, we have to win well.”
Army v Navy
Date: Saturday 2nd May 2020
Venue: Twickenham Stadium
Men KO: 2:00PM
Women KO: 4:30PM
Tickets on sale 13th January 2020.
One ticket provides access to both the Men’s & Women’s matches.
Adult: £35 category 1 | £30 category 2 | £25 category 3
Family packages from £50
The Army v Navy Match is sponsored by Babcock International Group, the UK’s leading engineering support services organisation.
Proceeds from the match go to the Army Rugby Union Trust, registered charity no. 1149105 and the Royal Navy Rugby Union, registered charity no. 1165153.
Images: Army Navy Match © Alligin Photography