- Northampton to host showpiece fixture
- East Midlands face Army A in curtain-raiser
Photo: RFU Archive
The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War will ensure that tonight's (Wednesday, March 19) Mobbs Memorial Match will be a particularly poignant occasion.
The fixture was inaugurated in 1921 between East Midlands and Barbarians to honour Edgar Mobbs, the former Northampton, East Midlands and England wing who died attacking a machine gun post in the Battle of Passchendale in 1917.
Mobbs was refused a commission on the grounds that at 32 he was too old for active service but he founded his own corps, the Sportsman’s Battalion, which formed a significant part of the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment.
The Barbarians withdrew from the fixture in 2011 but enthusiasts including former RFU President Bob Taylor, Bedford Blues chairman Geoff Irvine and former Northampton Saints chairman Keith Barwell, have ensured that the Mobbs Memorial Match has retained its place in the professional era.
The match is now contested by the British Army and Northampton Saints and Bedford Blues, who alternate as hosts and opponents. This year it is Northampton’s turn to host the famous fixture at Franklin’s Gardens (7.45pm), which will be preceded by a curtain-raiser between East Midlands and Army A (5pm).
The Mobbs Memorial Match will also include the Northamptonshire leg of the Elite Insurance Sevens Series - a tournament for Under 13 school teams – marching bands and military exhibitions.
“You cannot overstate how important a figure Edgar Mobbs is in Northampton, both within the club but also in the town as a whole,” said Northamptonshire chairman Tony Hewitt. “Not only was he the first Saint to captain England, but his leadership qualities extended far beyond that with his formation of the Sportsman's Battallion.
“All you have to do to see the impact he had is to look at the pictures of the homecoming parade and the unveiling of the Mobbs Memorial in the town centre, and the fact that the Mobbs Memorial Match was founded in the first place, along with the Mobbs Memorial Trust, shows the extent of the respect that people had for him then, and now.
“We are proud to be associated with the Mobbs Memorial Match, and are delighted to be playing the British Army on March 19 in what is sure to be an emotional occasion. It is our own piece of history, and hopefully plenty of people will come and support it.”
The British Army, who were narrowly beaten by Worcester Cavaliers last week, will use the Mobbs Memorial Match as a key part of their preparations for the forthcoming Inter Services Championship, where they will play the RAF at RAF Halton on April 19 and the Royal Navy at Twickenham Stadium on May 3.
East Midlands will use their match against Army A as a warm-up for their forthcoming County Championship campaign.
East Midlands will again be captained by Coventry flanker Brett Daynes with Ian Vass, the Old Albanians and former Northampton Saints and Bedford Blues scrum half, as player/coach.
The rest of the squad to face Army A will be selected from the Bedford Athletic, Old Northamptonians, Towcestrians, Peterborough, Peterborough Lions and Luton clubs.