British Army quartet an integral part of the squad

First XV // Thursday 14th November 2019

by Paul Smith

When considering the management of sports’ teams the autocratic styles of the likes of Brian Clough or Sir Alex Ferguson spring immediately to mind.

“We sit down, have a nice cup of tea and agree that I’m right,” Clough famously once told a reporter who asked how he dealt with any player brave enough to question the legendary Derby and Nottingham Forest manager’s approach.

And a generation later, David Beckham apparently sustained a facial injury when his seething boss hurled a shoe across the Old Trafford changing room while administering the infamous half-time ‘hair-dryer.’

As a former Premiership forward of some note, Birmingham Moseley boss Adam Balding presumably has some abrasive edges under his affable exterior.

However, the man in charge at Billesley Common seemingly favours a more consultative approach, which, according to experienced prop forward Nathanael Titchard-Jones, has recently embraced the introduction of an ideas-sharing forum.

“Over the course of the last couple of weeks we’ve introduced a senior player group,” the British Army loose head said.

“It was suggested by the squad and the coaches agreed to it. Having feedback from experienced players like Jonny Arr, Buster Lawrence and Pete Austin who have been at other clubs, helps us be more professional in our approach.

“The six or seven players involved are all in key decision-making positions on the pitch – scrum half, fly half, No.8 and the like – and hopefully having this group will help us make a few small adjustments to get to where we want to be.

“It has already enabled us to tweak a few small things. For example, we now get to home games a little later, and we’ve changed the matchday warm-up and Thursday training session slightly so the flow is improved.

“Our coaches are listening to us, now we have to repay the faith they are placing in us by performing on the pitch for them.”

Army players of Birmingham Moseley remembering fallen heroes at Billesley Common, Birmingham. Photos: Harish Chavda -Dingle Images

Along with John Davetanivalu, Ravai Fatiaki and Austin, Titchard-Jones forms part of a British Army quartet that doubles up as an integral part of the Moseley squad.

And at a time of year when the armed forces are at the front of our minds, the 32-year-old said it was especially appropriate that Plymouth were Moseley’s most recent opponents.

“It was really good to be playing there on Remembrance weekend as they have a few Navy boys including the captain playing for them,” he said.

“The connection between Moseley and the Army is a strong one now – they are both very supportive of each other, which is good to see.

“The Army rugby season has already started; we’ve played against a university and have a game at Rosslyn Park coming up. The head coach (Major Wayne Bernard) tends to hold back players who have contracts with clubs until later in the season when the preparations for the inter-services competition are underway.”

Stafford-based Titchard-Jones has been forced to make a few compromises to accommodate concurrent army and rugby careers, but says he is now very settled at the club he joined from Coventry last season.

“Playing for a pro or semi-pro club has to be agreed and signed off by the Army, and you have to make that specific request. It can take a bit of a toll on your career, but that’s the choice we make as rugby players, and if you were more career-minded you wouldn’t make that choice.

“I joined when I was 16, and I’m 32 now. I’m a sergeant in the REME where I work as a mechanical engineer; over the years I’ve done an operational tour in Iraq as well as being posted to Germany and the Falklands and all over the UK.

“That mobility can limit your club rugby, for instance when I was at Warminster there wasn’t a club of the right standard nearby, so I had a break for a couple of years after previously playing at Rams and Chinnor when I was based in Reading.

“Moseley is a really good environment – they go out of their way to make you and your family very welcome – and I’m really enjoying playing there.

“There’s plenty of improvement to come, especially away from home. We picked up losing bonus points at Rams and Rosslyn Park, and if we can produce the same performances on the road that we do at Billesley Common where we’re unbeaten we’ll definitely make some progress.”