WHEN Chief Petty Officer Ashley Coates joined the Royal Navy 17 years ago, he knew he would travel with his job, but he never dreamed he would be jetting out on the trip he is taking this week.
The Boston man flew out to Australia on Saturday with 34 of his colleagues to take part in the first-ever Forces Rugby World Cup, and as director of rugby for the Royal Navy, he is at the team’s helm.
The side’s first game comes against the Australia Federal Police on Saturday, and hopefully will make it to Aukland, New Zealand, for the final at the end of October.
Ashley, of Zara Close, Boston, told The Standard before the trip: “It’s really exciting for me. The prestige throughout it is great and the competition has massive rewards for us all.
“Some of these guys have just returned from Afghanistan. They are servicemen who have done their time and they are coming back and they are being rewarded.
“It’s a massive privilege. It’s a difficult time when we are short of man power and defence cuts are being made. I think this will be a reward we’ll feel when we get on that plane on Saturday.”
Father-of-two Ashley, 34, has been involved in Royal Navy rugby for six years, alongside his forces role, which has seen him serve tours of Iraq among others. He said he started out coaching and giving analysis and has since worked his way up.
He has also recently worked with professional rugby union team Saracens. His three-year stint with the team culminated in them winning the premiership, which he described as ‘a great achievement’. He was offered the director job in the Navy following this success.
Ashley said he was confident about his team’s chances in the competition, and compared life on the pitch to life on the battleground.
He added: “The stress on our soldiers, sailors and airmen on the rugby pitch emulates that in battle. The team work we use when we are in battle we can emulate on a rugby pitch. That pulling together which we are trained for certainly aids us. I’m quietly confident about the ability of my team. We have every chance of making the final and winning.”
Living in Portsmouth during the week and travelling back to Boston at the weekend means Ashley can often find himself away from home, but he still plans to fly the flag for Boston when he is out in Oz. He has even been asked by some relatives who have emigrated to take out some good Lincolnshire Sausage.
Back at home, he will be supported by wife Sarah and daughters Hollie and Jasmine.
l Ashley plans to complete a blog of his time out in Australia. Keep checking The Standard for more details about this.