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Army press release

Aspiring professional rugby players have been put through their paces by Colchester’s airborne gunners to learn about the parallels between professional sport and the military.

7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (7 Para RHA) hosted Saracens Rugby Club’s senior academy at Merville Barracks for a two-day (1-2 Aug) insight into Army life, showing them the crossover between the leadership, teamwork and commitment required on both the battlefield and the rugby pitch.

The players – who are on the cusp of breaking into first team rugby – were tested with an overnight field exercise in Friday Woods including command tasks and navigation, before joining the soldiers for a joint physical training session. After Saracens coaches lead a rugby skills session, 7 Para RHA’s Physical Training Instructors took over for a session of battle PT, culminating in a stretcher race between the soldiers and players. 

7 Para RHA’s Staff Sergeant Lee Soper, who is head coach for the UK Armed Forces rugby team, said: “There is a symmetry between professional sports and the military – the importance of self-discipline, team work and a winning mentality are the same. We can learn from how professional athletes approach those challenges as much as they can learn from us.

 Andy Dawling, Saracens’ academy pathway manager, served in 7 Para RHA for 22½ years. “Spending time with the Army is about putting our players under pressure in a different environment at an important point in their careers, as they move from development squads to the first team,” he said. “We want to see how they respond and let them see how the skills and qualities that we emphasis are just as important in the military. We talk a lot about humility and soldiering really shows how everyone has just got to pull together in tough situations.

Josh Hallett, an 18-year-old centre, said: “This visit was a complete surprise for us and it’s been really interesting and demanding. For the soldiers, performing on the day can be about life or death when for us it’s about winning or losing. The strength, stamina and commitment soldiers have shown in their training is a real example for us.”

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