Corporal Chris Budgen British Army soldier training Estonian rugby team
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The Soldier Training Estonia's Rugby Team During An Army Deployment

The former Exeter Chiefs and Northampton Saints man is currently stationed in Tapa with the Army as part of NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence...

Corporal Chris Budgen British Army soldier training Estonian rugby team

Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Images

A former professional rugby player and current serving soldier has begun training the Estonian rugby team during a deployment to the country.

Corporal Chris Budgen, who played for Exeter Chiefs and Northampton Saints, is currently stationed in Tapa, more than 80 miles from the Russian border.

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh have been deployed to the Baltic state as part of NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) - established to deter Kremlin aggression.

The 45-year-old, who is originally from New Zealand and has completed tours of Iraq and Afghanistan during his 20 years in the Army, said that although soldiering comes first, he is offering a helping hand on the side.

Cpl Budgen described how the Estonian players are very keen to learn, adding that they give 100% and 'go 100 miles an hour' during their weekly Sunday training sessions.

"It is quite easy to coach because they are so enthusiastic and they just want to learn. It is quite good you know, they are quite fit boys," he said.

"I think it is something that is a bit of a challenge for myself - going right back to the grassroots. It is purely amateur out here - but they are so keen."

Chris Budgen
Cpl Budgen balanced his professional rugby career alongside his Army duties. Cover picture: David Davies/PA Images

Ragnar Toompere, President of the Estonian Rugby Union, said 5 RIFLES kicked off the training scheme last summer, helping them to improve their skills and providing coaching.

Asked what Cpl Budgen is like as a coach, Kristjan Kotkas, 31, who plays for and is the President of Tallinn Kalev RFC, said having him is "fantastic".

"What our guys really like is encouragement. The Estonian nature is more towards that rather than the whip, which tends to backfire sometimes," he said.

"But he is very supportive and optimistic, and I think the guys really appreciate that. I don't think there is a coach regionally who is that accomplished in rugby, so we are really in awe."

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