Senior Men’s Head Coach, Lt Col Tim Osman, says that there will be plenty of hard decisions for the coaches as the red shirt squad gets whittled down into the next stage of preparation for the 2023 Inter-Services Championship.
Around 60 players have been given an opportunity in the red shirt over three development games, and by contributing to wins over the British Police, a Blackheath XV and Oxford University Greyhounds they have prompted plenty of discussion within the management brains trust.
The latter two successes came in the space of four days, when the squad backed up a 33-21 win at the Rectory Field with a 45-0 victory over the Greyhounds at Oxford Harlequins RFC.
“We’ve been talking about it throughout and I don’t know how many scraps of paper are in random notebooks!” Lt Col Osman says. “Then people come along who you’ve not seen before, who have come back to fitness or made themselves available, it causes more headaches. It’s not easy.
“What’s exciting is the breadth and depth it gives us. It’s not the be-all and end-all come Cambridge, there will be plenty of opportunities, including the three capped games along the line. We can pick teams depending on the opposition as well.
“It’s been hard actually having three decent wins from the three development games. As I’ve said throughout there are a lot of people who have been needing to have a go, with a number of opportunities this year following people stepping out from the squad for retirements, injuries, and a variety of reasons.
“People seem to be relishing the opportunity to try and take the shirt.”
The two wins were pleasing in their own ways, according to Lt Col Osman. Six first half tries in Oxford were created by a mix of forward power, intelligent handling in the backs and a couple of outstanding offloads, and there was also plenty of time with 14 men following a first half red card, which forced a readjustment in both attack and defence.
Meanwhile in Blackheath the team had to come back from an early set-back before withstanding a momentum shift either side of the break which had seen the Club tie things up. The way the players reacted at the Rectory Field impressed the Head Coach.
“We had a slightly less experienced team with some guys having their first run-out,” Lt Col Osman says. “There was a lack of cohesion which we were aware of and we had a pretty poor first two or three minutes. We had to get back into it quickly, and when they scored at the end with another soft try in the middle we’d kind of given them all three tries.
“To turn that around and come out with the win was important, was very pleasing.”
Also positive for Lt Col Osman is the progress being made away from full-time red shirt rugby by the likes of Gnr Senitiki Nayalo (7 Para RHA), who is having a standout season for Coventry, Rfn Vereimi Qorowale (Rifles), who is having the opportunity to train alongside and learn from some of the best wingers in the Premiership at Newcastle, and Spr Michael McDonald (RE), who was called up by the German national squad for their Rugby Europe Championship match against Spain.
“To have those guys coming back into the wider squad is exciting and hopefully they’ll bring a lot of impact and experience too,” Lt Col Osman says.
“First and foremost, we’re all very proud of them. They’re part of our club and the red shirt, and we’re proud of what they’re doing for the British Army. They’re a pretty good endorsement for that. And it shows that opportunities are available for the guys coming through, whether it’s youngsters, guys who have been around the circuit for a while but who’ve not necessarily had the opportunity to express themselves in the Championship or National One, or indeed, in Mike’s case, having international opportunities from his dad’s service in Germany.
“It showcases rugby in the Army.”
The Senior Men are next in action away to Cambridge University on Wednesday, February 22nd (KO 1930hrs).
Tickets for the 2023 Inter-Services Championship are now on sale.
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Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks
Header and Featured Image – Alligin Photography © Lee Crabb