Armed Services clash in Challenge Cup

The British Army clash with the RAF in the Second Round of Rugby League’s Carnegie Challenge Cup this Saturday at Aldershot Rugby Stadium.

Both sides will carry the branding of The Royal British Legion on their kits for their first ever meeting in this competition which comes only 17 years after Rugby League was officially recognised as a sport in the Armed Services.

One of the pioneers for Rugby League in the Armed Services was Martin Coyd who was added to the RFL’s Roll of Honour last Sunday for his great service to the sport.

Martin Coyd said: “This Challenge Cup fixture is another significant milestone for the game in the Services.

“We had a vision in the early 90s of what we might achieve but without question the progress made in the interim has surpassed anyone’s expectations. I recall begging and borrowing kit, using a pen on a ruler to write letters that were legible and faxing them one at a time to Army units requesting a player’s attendance.

“There is a real honour for the players who have achieved selection for their own Service. The Army, RAF or Royal Navy badge worn on the chest is a massive inspiration and this will be even more so with the Royal British Legion alongside it.

“The standard of play surprises and impresses all who see it for the first time.  There are remarkable levels of fitness, intensity and endurance and the skills and patterns of Rugby League are no longer lacking.

“The people involved in the game are proud soldiers, sailors and airmen and being a Rugby League player helps them stand a little taller.  All the things that make our game great are magnified in the Services and Rugby League has achieved a highly regarded position in Services sport, respected by all.

“I can’t wait for Saturday.”

Rugby League was officially recognised as a sport in the Armed Forces on April 29, 1994 following an announcement by the Armed Forces Minister, Rt Hon Jeremy Hanley; this was then followed by RAF recognition in 1996 and Royal Navy recognition in 1997.

Armed Forces Development Officer, George Taylor said: “We are seeing a steady increase in the number of people playing Rugby League across the Armed Services and there is greater recognition of the pathways for progression which exist.

“We’ve recently seen Armed Forces Rugby League players representing England Women and last year there were two players from the Armed Forces in the Men’s Great Britain Community Lions side.

“More and more units are returning to play the sport and with changes to overseas operations as well as more formalised links with the RFL Coaching Department there is a very exciting future for Rugby League in the Armed Services.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Royal British Legion and the charity’s branding will be prominently displayed around the stadium with bucket collections also taking place to support this great cause.

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