US Portsmouth stalwart and RFU president Jeff Blackett to walk 150 miles for charity to celebrate RFU’s 150th anniversary

RFU President Jeff Blackett is to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his organisation by walking 150 miles.

By Simon Carter
Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 12:03 pm
Flashback - Jeff Blackett (centre right) in action for US Portsmouth against Plymouth Albion (date unknown).
Flashback - Jeff Blackett (centre right) in action for US Portsmouth against Plymouth Albion (date unknown).

The US Portsmouth stalwart will start his charity trek on Friday morning at Burnaby Road and plans to walk 10 miles a day for 15 days.

He will be accompanied by wife Sally and the pair will visit 16 different counties, including Yorkshire and Lancashire, before ending up at Twickenham, Middlesex, on Friday November 5 - the eve of the first match of the autumn internationals.

Prior to leaving USP on Friday, Blackett - who has been RFU President since last year - will formally name the stand at the club’s ground in memory of Lieutenant Commander Arthur Harrison.

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RFU president and US Portsmouth stalwart Jeff Blackett. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images).

The walk aims to raise much-needed funds for the Injured Players’ Foundation (IPF) will reflect Blackett’s own rugby journey from his first, and only, club to the headquarters of the English game.

Blackett said: ‘This is an opportunity to not only look back at the history but also look to the future of rugby, and to thank the many club and constituent body volunteers for their remarkable work in keeping their clubs and communities going throughout the pandemic.’

After leaving Burnaby Road on Friday, Blackett will visit Portsmouth RFC for a buffet lunch stop at Rugby Camp and also visit Hooks Lane, home of Havant RFC. Also walking on the day will be Bill Sweeney, the Chief Executive of the RFU, and members of US Portsmouth RFC, the Royal Navy RFU and Hampshire RFU.

A former Naval Officer, Blackett began his adult rugby career in the 1970s at US Portsmouth and played for the club, on and off - Naval duties and sea-time permitting - until the early 1990s. He was the club’s captain in their centenary season of 1982/83.

Blackett played for Hampshire in the 1975 County Championships and represented the Royal Navy in 1981 and 1982 against the Royal Air Force and the Army in the Inter-Services Competition at Twickenham.

Before he ended his playing career, he was US Portsmouth chairman for two seasons from 1991 and later became club President in 2002. He was treasurer and then chairman of the Royal Navy RFU in the 1990s.

Three years ago Blackett became the Junior Vice President of the RFU, followed by a year a Senior Vice President before taking over the Presidency. He is now in his second year as President - very rarely has an RFU President served for more than one year - because of the effects of Covid-19 on the game throughout his first year.

Arthur Harrison, meanwhile, played for US Portsmouth for eight seasons before the First World War. He was capped twice by England in 1914.

Harrison was killed in action at the head of his raiding party on St George’s Day 1918 during the Raid on Zeebrugge, later described by Winston Churchill ‘the finest feat of arms of the Great War and certainly an episode unsurpassed in the history of the Royal Navy’.

Harrison, whose body was never found, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross - the only England rugby union international to receive such an honour.