Chasing the title - ASRU team heads to the UK for international rugby competition

The Australian Services Rugby Union (ASRU) men’s squad, including 14 Army members, has headed to the UK to take on nine nations in the game they play in heaven.

The month-long 2015 International Defence Rugby Competition (IDRC) is hosted by the British Armed Forces and features 12 teams from 10 countries. The ASRU side will be competing against the home country, which is fielding sides from Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as sides from New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, South Africa, France, Canada, Georgia and Japan.

The IDRC came about when former-CDF Gen David Hurley initiated the inaugural competition in 2011.

While not officially affiliated with the Rugby World Cup, the concept was for the IDRC to be hosted in the same country and around the same time.

ASRU national operations manager Lt-Col Adam Boyd said they finished second in 2011.

“We made the final against the British Army who defeated us, so our first pool game this year is a replay of that match and bit of a grudge match,” he said. “The British Army is very much the benchmark. They are clearly the favourites, although the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, in particular, is the dark horse of the competition – they have a fantastic rugby culture over there.” The ASRU 28-man touring squad was finalised after a nine-day preparation camp, which included two warm-up matches against the ACT Griffins in Canberra, from September 21-30. The squad met for an early morning walk at Floriade, Canberra’s annual flower exhibition, for a National Heart Foundation engagement on the day of their first warm-up match. ASRU head coach WO Tony Doherty said this was his fourth year in the role.

“Our preparation has gone well – our concentration period is relatively short but that seems the case every year so we do the best with what we have,” he said. “Opportunities to go away and play an international competition of this standard are few and far between and being in the ADF means we cannot be sure we know what we will be doing the next time this comes around.” WO Doherty said this was a culmination of a four-year process. “We have trialled around 120 players over that period and we trialled different teams to see what our depth was going to be like,” he said.

“The highlight of this trip will be the first game, where we get to play the British Army at their home headquarters in Aldershot. It’s a rematch of last IRDC’s grand final, where they unfortunately came away with the win. “Our aim will be to play the final at Twickenham – whoever the opposition is doesn’t really matter, we’d just like to be there.” Playing flanker LCpl Luke Miles, of 2/14 LHR QMI, said he had been with Defence rugby for about four years but this was his first international tour. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to another country to play in an international setting and test our skills against the rest of the world,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the square-up match against the British Army. There’s a bit of hype surrounding the game – it should be good as it’s the first match up. We’ve had a fairly short concentration period before stepping off, but I think our preparation has been adequate and it should be a great game.

“There’s a good attitude and a level of enthusiasm around the team and I think everyone is ready to play, so moving into the tournament we are in a really good spot. “I’m happy with my fitness, I’m good to go, injury free and ready to play some disciplined rugby.” Lt-Col Boyd said a lot of positives came out of the two training matches against the ACT Griffins, which took place in the last four days of the Canberra concentration period.

“While we weren’t ahead on the scoreboard at the end of both the matches, they were more of a training hit-out for us. We got to give two complete teams a run and we pretty much decided our starting 15 for the IDRC,” he said. “The Griffins are a much more seasoned and experienced side than we are and we wanted to focus on giving the guys a hit out at a level that was going to be representative of that which they would face in the UK. “In both encounters we had really good second halves and got to prove both our game plan and strength and conditioning program works. The guys’ defensive structure and resilience was there at the end of the 80 minutes, now we just have to work on not letting opposing teams get away from us in the first half. “This is only the second time in ASRU’s 52-year history that we have toured the UK. The last time was in 1994, so it has been 21 years between drinks. History is important but you can’t change it – it’s all about the history that you make.” ASRU’s IDRC pool matches will be played at Aldershot Army Barracks near London. Quarter final matches will be played at Aldershot and Portsmouth. The semi-finals and final will be played at The Stoop in London. All matches are open to the general public. Follow the team’s progress at www.facebook.com/groups/ASRU.Men or www.idrc.org.uk

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