“For rugby league, players need fitness and discipline. For a soldier, in rugby league someone can run at him, and smash him. He must get up and take the physical aspect of the game, and have mental discipline. These are all qualities of a good soldier.”
Andrew Sanger MBE
Soldiers League congratulates Andy Sanger (past Army RL 1st XIII captain and Army RL 1st team coach) on his appointment with Harlequins. See https://www.quins.co.uk/news/harlequins-appoint-andrew-sanger-as-player-development-manager/
Read more about Andy's Army Rugby League career below:
EXTRACTS FROM “Soldiers’ League – The story of Army Rugby League” by Sean Fanning
Andy got involved in rugby league by chance. He had watched the game on television, but when he was growing up, the divide between the two codes was huge, and there was little opportunity to play League in South Wales. He recalls “Martin Coyd and Major Martin Morris were starting to establish rugby league. A question had been asked in Parliament by David Hinchliffe MP about why rugby league was not played. I was an established rugby union player, but the question put was why ‘Corporal Sanger wants to play rugby league, but can’t?’ I knew nothing about it, and had not consented to it, but it never did me any harm. I played in the 9s tournament at Chepstow before the first match at Leigh, the RFL coach chose me as ‘Player-of-the-tournament’ and I was chosen for the team. I was new to rugby league, but was a decent rugby player. They put me on the wing, and I wanted to get the ball, then they moved me to centre, and I finished the game at stand-off. It was very fast and very physical. At that time union was not played at the same pace as good quality rugby league.”
After this, Andy played both codes: “I first played for the Army against the Royal Navy in 1994, and I scored a try. It was great to run out at Twickenham in front of a big crowd. I was the only Welshman on the field. I played regularly for the rugby league team for six or seven years, and captained the side. But I always had to balance my rugby commitments with my work as a soldier. There were career courses and operational commitments, which is why I only toured once in rugby league. But I was never on the losing side as a player in an Inter-Services match.
Andy retired as a player in 2000: “I was a Staff Sergeant in Northern Ireland, working on the EOD and search teams. Work came first, but I would have liked to have carried on playing rugby league. One of my last games was against the full Tonga side before the 2000 RL World Cup. They were incredibly fast, and beat us overwhelmingly. We only had a couple of weeks’ notice of the match, and gave them a physical encounter, which was what they wanted.”
After playing came coaching: “I did my rugby league coaching badge in 2003; and did some coaching with the Royal Engineers team. In rugby union, I was fast tracked through the system, and have a Level 3 badge, which means I could coach at Premiership level. In 2005, I became assistant coach for the Army RU first team, and then became ‘A’ team coach. But I also had service commitments abroad at that time. Then I got involved with the Royal Engineers RU team, and we were unbeaten for three seasons.
In 2010, I became first team coach for the Army RL team, who had been going through a hard time. We beat the Royal Navy and the RAF, and then I went straight onto coaching the Army RU team for their season. I had to stop doing the rugby league side because of the Defence Forces World Cup. I was the first person to play for the Army first team in both codes, and I am still the only person to coach the first team in both codes. When I was coach of the league team, I did ‘cherry pick’ some of the union players, which apparently annoyed some of the union senior officers!
In rugby league, ball skills and physicality are important. Players need a good rugby brain and ball skills. I try to have teams that are disciplined, well drilled and have a simple game plan. In union, there are more technicalities in different positions, and players need more experience, especially in the forwards. Overall, union is a bit more technical.”
Published with the kind permission of London League Publications Ltd
Updated 12:17 - 27 May 2018 by Jeremy Bethell