Lt Col Tim Osman (RA) says that the entire UKAF touring party is excited by the challenges they will be facing during the upcoming International Defence Rugby Competition, which kicks off in France this weekend.
UKAF has made the relatively short trip looking to go one better than 2019, when they were losing finalists, and as well as Lt Col Osman in the coaching group the Army Rugby Union will be represented by 15 players who have been selected for the tournament.
UKAF has been drawn alongside Tonga, Georgia and Spain in Pool B. There are two other pools of four, with both traditional rugby nations as well as less familiar names at the top end of the international sport.
Pool A pitches France against Australia, Japan and the Netherlands. Meanwhile in Pool C the Pacific clash between reigning champions, Fiji, and New Zealand automatically catches the eye, with Ireland and Uzbekistan also in that group.
As is traditional for the IRDC, the host nation is the same as that of the Rugby World Cup, and the 12 military teams have their matches spread across 25 venues throughout Brittany.
UKAF opens its campaign against Tonga this coming Saturday in Fougères, a match which can be watched live on the Forces TV YouTube channel from 1645hrs.
“The weather seems to be hotting up too this week, as will our focus as we head into the Tonga match,” says Lt Col Osman. “We know it will be a massively physical challenge, and we are wary of the threat they will likely pose right across the park. For now, though, all we can do is concentrate on our own preparations and get excited for the competition to get underway this weekend.
“It does feel like a bit of a step into the unknown though, as there’s no real way of knowing how our opponents will shape up, or what threats they may pose. It’s a good challenge in bringing together different approaches and ideas in relatively short order, and it’ll be good to get first round of games underway so we can see where we are at, and also get some footage of future opponents to dissect.
“It’ll be great to see so many different styles and approaches across the 12 participating nations, and I’m sure we will find time to collaborate and share thoughts with each other after the final whistle has blown.”
Lt Col Osman is assisting RAFRU Head Coach, Justin Coleman, and working alongside Silivenusi Buinimasi from the Royal Navy in the coaching group, and he says that planning for the upcoming tournament began in earnest at the start of the year.
“It is really exciting to be involved in the IDRC,” he adds. “The management and coaching team have been planning since January, and then finalising squad availability since the completion of the Inter Service Championship.
“As a coaching group, we had the opportunity to pull together a game plan and playing style with a camp in June, when UKAF played a North of England select team in a charity match at Kingston Park, Newcastle. The final squad has seen some changes since that event but is now starting to gel after meeting last week in Portsmouth. It’s a good mix from across the three Services, with a lot of experienced players and some real talent.
“This week has provided the usual frictions of any overseas trip, with accommodation, training and logistical adaptations to make having arrived in France on Tuesday morning. The facilities though are excellent at our base in Dinard, so we are really content, and will have our training base in St Malo. We had a squad session on Tuesday afternoon and an S&C primer too on Wednesday morning, so we’re pretty much into our routine now.
“We are all really grateful for all the messages of support from across the UK and can’t wait now to get our campaign underway, and hope to do you all proud over the next month.”
After Saturday’s game against Tonga, UKAF then play Georgia in Brest on Wednesday, August 23rd, and Spain in Melesse on Sunday, August 27th.
The round-robins are followed by semi-finals, with the final to be played in Vannes on Sunday, September 10th.
All of the matches will be live streamed on the Forces TV YouTube channel.
Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks
Header and Featured Image – Alligin Photography © UKAF Rugby – Mark Deller