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Lt Col Tim Osman says that the 25 players who wore the red shirt against the British Police have given the Army Senior Men’s coaches plenty of food for thought.

Lt Col Osman took up the reins of the senior team following Capt Mal Roberts’ (RLC) retirement last October, and after a training camp in December and the build-up to the Police’s visit to Aldershot, he got to cast his eye over the team for the first time.

The red shirts certainly put on a show, running seven tries past the Police in a 43-7 victory with skills that at times belied the poor conditions, rain sweeping across the Army Rugby Stadium at regular intervals throughout the match.

“I thought the boys did pretty well, considering,” Lt Col Osman told BFBS. “It was nice to run out on grass. There’s been a lot of 4G and Astro with the frost, weather and the rain, and despite the conditions the skillset was pretty good. We want to play some attacking rugby, we want to be good to watch, and we want to score tries. So it was pleasing to see the boys deliver that.”

This was the first of three Development fixtures before the squad begins to be whittled down ahead of the Inter-Services Championship, with visits to Blackheath and Oxford University Greyhounds to come in February.

With the sizeable challenge of the RAF and Royal Navy rapidly approaching on the horizon, Lt Col Osman says it is vital that players and coaches alike make the most of these initial outings.

“These development fixtures are key in giving guys opportunity, for us to have a good look at them,” Lt Col Osman commented. “They trained hard in the three-day camp before Christmas, and to have another session this week and have 25 players have the opportunity to play is really important for us.

“The performance they put in makes it really difficult for the coaches to now look at the next round of options and then make some calls in a month or so time.

“We’ve got some depth and have had a lot of changes to the senior squad this year, with a number of injuries, deployments, or people not available or moving on. This is great and exciting, but to shuffle the pack to see what you’ve got is always going to be difficult.

“But that performance was encouraging, to see some talent and depth coming through.

We’ve got to get a squad out that’s worthy of representing the Army’s red shirt and we’re on the way there. It’s exciting and we’ve got off to a good start so far.”

Capt Stu Cross (Yorks/RMAS) was handed the responsibility of leading the team out onto the pitch, and he said that the messaging beforehand was straightforward.

“The talk was simple in the changing room to be fair,” he said. “It was about team cohesion in this first run-out, and then accuracy as well. We’ve only been together three days and there are a lot of new faces this season.

“Everyone’s gelled really well. There’s only so much you can do in three days, so it’s got to be a stepping stone for the rest of the campaign.”

Capt Cross was part of the engine room up front which had a dominant evening, especially in the scrum. But he insisted that the red shirts did not have things all their own way during the 80 minutes.

“We had to work hard for it,” he said. “They presented a tough, physical challenge, which they always do, and when it started to rain in the warm-up we had to adapt how we wanted to play.

“There were a lot of positives from today, although we didn’t keep to our structure. They put up a good challenge and we’ve got a lot to work on.

“It was a good effort from the eight, although we’ve still got a lot to work on in that regard. The scrum was good, the lineout positive, but with work-ons.”

With those two back-to-back fixtures against Blackheath and Oxford University’s second team coming up quickly, not to mention the busy day jobs held by everyone within the British Army, Capt Cross added that it was important for everyone to remain focused on every task at hand, whether rugby-related or not.

“Fortunately it’s a pretty professional outfit,” he said. “We’ve got a review and recovery tomorrow morning, and then players will go home, recover, and go back to work – most importantly – and then we’re back for the following week.”

The Army Men’s Development XV play Blackheath at Blackheath Rugby, Well Hall, SE9 6TE on Tuesday, February 7th and then Oxford University Greyhounds at Iffley Road, Oxford, on Friday, February 10th.

Tickets for the 2023 Inter-Services Championship are now on sale.

CLICK HERE for information about the Army v RAF at Kingsholm, Gloucester, on Saturday, April 15th.

CLICK HERE for information about Army Navy at Twickenham on Saturday, May 13th.

Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks

Header and Featured Images – Alligin Photography © Lee Crabb