- Northampton to face British Army in Mobbs Match
- Historic fixture back at Franklin’s Gardens
One of rugby’s most famous fixtures, the Mobbs Memorial Match, is returning to Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton next week.
The fixture, which was inaugurated in 1921, honours Edgar Mobbs, a true legend of Northampton and England rugby who was killed in battle during World War I.
Until now the fixture has involved the Barbarians, initially against East Midlands and latterly against Bedford Blues. This season tough, it will feature Aviva Premiership club Northampton Saints against the British Army, who won the International Defence World Championships in Australia last November.
The Army will use the Mobbs Memorial Match to prepare for the forthcoming Inter Services Championship. They will face Northampton and Bedford in alternate years as rugby continues to remember the bravery of Edgar Mobbs.
Mobbs was the first Saint to captain England and he also led the East Midlands, the Midlands, the South of England and the Barbarians, as well as his club for five seasons, something which was not matched until the mid-1990s.
His illustrious career included 234 appearances in the black, green and gold and seven England caps, but he is as much remembered for what he did on the field of battle as for his rugby exploits.
Having been refused a commission upon the outbreak of World War I on grounds of age, Mobbs formed his own special corps and just over a month after war had been declared 400 men had volunteered to join him. The 264 who were passed fit became known as the Sportsman’s Battalion and formed a large part of the 7th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment.
Mobbs himself was wounded three times in battle, and in the recuperation from the one injury played his final game of rugby in 1915. His return to his Battalion – by now as colonel – after his third injury coincided with the Battle of Passchendale, during which Mobbs became one of the 420,000 men to lose their lives.
He went down in folklore with the story that as he lay dying while trying to storm a German machine gun nest, Mobbs passed the map reference of the enemy to his runner to give to the Battalion Brigadier.
Mobbs’ body was never found and there was no wife or child to mourn him. That did not stop a Mobbs Fund committee being formed, and the money they raised paid for a statue to honour him. Unveiled in front of thousands of Northamptonians in 1921, the statue now stands in the town’s garden of rest.
The Mobbs Memorial Match will kick-off at Franklin’s Gardens at 7:45pm on March 20 with admission costing £3 (juniors and concessions) and £10 (adults) throughout the stadium. The match will support the charitable aims of the Mobbs Memorial Fund.
There will be a curtain raiser between the Army’s ‘A’ team and an East Midlands XV to whet the appetite, while the British Army will also be bringing along plenty of participatory activities for supporters to take part in throughout the afternoon and evening, including a paintball range and tanks for people to explore. Music will be provided by the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers.
There will also be a pre-match pitch maintenance workshop run by former England prop David Powell, who is now Northampton Saints’ director of grounds.
Powell, an experienced and respected groundsman, will be passing on tips on how clubs can fund and deliver their end of season pitch maintenance and renovation programmes.
The session starts at 5.30pm and places can be booked by contacting Mariana Hiles at the East Midlands RU administrative office on 01933 222218 or firstname.lastname@example.org