British Army proud to be involved in Challenge Cup competition

British Army
Photo courtesy of Pete Smith Photography and British Army Rugby League

The British Army Rugby League’s road to Wembley in the Challenge Cup begins this weekend in the opening round against Orrell St James.

The British Army Rugby League have enjoyed recent cup success, reaching the fourth round in 2020 before defeat to Rochdale at the Crown Oil Arena. It was the side’s furthest progression in the cup since their involvement in 2000.

The team beat Oulton Raiders, Skirlaugh and Ince Rose Bridge in that impressive run, overtaking the Royal Navy’s previous record of a round three appearance for a forces side.

Head coach WO2 Mike Thompson says it’s a privilege to be involved, and is hoping his side can do the business this weekend.

“It’s massive. It’s the oldest cup competition within our sport,” Thompson told Love Rugby League.

“When you try and explain to people what it means to rugby players, sometimes they don’t get how big the enormity of it is. It’s the equivalent to the FA Cup. 

“To be involved is massive. It’s a life long dream and I’m over the moon to be involved. To step out as a team, especially an army team, it’s massive.”

British Army
British Army head coach Mike Thompson only arrived back in England earlier this week from Germany. Photo courtesy of Pete Smith Photography.

British Army represented in the professional game

The British Army have seen several of their players turn pro in the sport. Junior Vasuitoga, who is on trial at Super League side Castleford, is set to make his debut in the club’s pre-season friendly with York.

Ratu Naulago also impressed during his time with Hull, before joining Premiership Rugby outfit Bristol Bears. 

York 2022 recruit Olly Butterworth has also been a serving member of the Parachute Regiment since 2018. 

“We have players from all over,” Thompson said on his squad.

“There’s lads from the north, north east, south, everywhere. Players come from all over.

“Orrell St James have the luxury of training a few times a week together. Our lads are predominantly from rugby playing areas and are posted everywhere.

“We don’t meet up as often as we like. We had a few games last season and inter-services, we played the RAF and Great Britain Police and Ince Rose Bridge the back-end of the year to test ourselves.

“We’ve got to test ourselves against the best teams to make sure we compete at that level. We’ve met three or four times, brought a couple of players in and we’ve trained well.”

Coverage: Three Challenge cup fixtures to be shown live this weekend

British Army to feature live on BBC

Their clash with Orrell St James will be streamed live on the BBC, with a 12:30pm kick-off this Saturday, while the side are also looking forward to meeting with fans again in the big occasion.

“There’s always pressure,” Thompson said.

“We’re not a team that’s consistently together. We have our day jobs as soldiers, so there’s the pressure from work to be released. We’re taking soldiers away from busy periods.

“There’s pressure from work and from above for us to compete and do well. Also the internal pressures on ourselves. Everyone wants to win. We’re used to pressure and we thrive upon it. 

“It’s a different pressure. Sometimes it can be self induced what we put ourselves through. I think the pressure we have is a good amount of pressure and we have been coping and training well. The morale is high.”

“It’s nice to go somewhere and feel welcomed”

Thompson continued: “It’s massive [being streamed]. We’ve got friends and family from all over and all parts of the country. To be streamed on the BBC is huge. 

“We were on TV a couple years ago at Ince Rose Bridge and it got so many viewing statistics and all across social media platforms. 

“It’s also good as those who have never really watched rugby, we can say our teams and our players are on TV. They can watch too, it’s great.

“It’s good when we get to go somewhere. We talk to travelling fans and get to know them. We’re always welcomed as everyone is interested in us and what we do. They’re interested and do talk to us.

“It’s nice to go somewhere and feel welcomed.”

On what we can expect from his side this Saturday, the Golborne-born coach added: “Aggression, power, passion. They are a few words that come to mind.

“Intensity. It’s knock out rugby league and the lads are ready for it. Orrell will be ready for it, too.

“They’re a team that are well knitted and all Orrell lads. We’re going to the heartland of rugby league in Wigan. Everyone from that area throws a rugby ball around.

“We’ve got to be ready and we’ve got to start fast.”

More on Challenge Cup round one

Galway Tribesmen preparing for historic Challenge Cup debut

Bridgend Blue Bulls reveal Covid difficulties ahead of Challenge Cup tie

Andy Gregory to renew love affair with Challenge Cup this weekend

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.