A Royal Navy officer from Boston had the honour of coaching a Combined Services rugby team in a match to raise money for the Poppy Appeal.
Ashley Coates watched as his side – featuring the best players from the Army, Navy and Air Force – took on the world-famous Barbarians.
And for the first time in six years witnessed his side run out victors, winning 34-28.
Both sides featured top international players and put on a real show for the spectators, but as Ashley explains the day was about more than the game.
“It is fantastic to win but more importantly it was about raising the awareness and money for the Poppy Appeal,” said the chief petty officer. “We have all had friends and colleagues lose their lives and limbs and come back from active service mentally scarred – the game was about raising money for the fantastic support they and their family receive through the charity appeal.”
Ashley was selected to prepare the Combined Services team for the match at Plymouth Albion after impressing as head coach of the Navy’s outfit.
“We chose to go about bringing the three different services together by creating an experience for everyone involved, so we did a lot of team building exercises,” he said. “I wanted them to be able to go away, and regardless of the result, be able to say ‘remember the time we played the Barbarians, what a great experience that was’. I wanted to create some brilliant memories.”
Ashley, who is married to Sarah and has two children, Hollie and Jasmine, has previously worked with top Premiership rugby team Saracens.
He was part of the backroom team when they won they won the 2010/11 title.