David's doing a great job for rugby in Royal Air Force and UK Armed Forces

David Manning leads the way (front, centre)
David Manning started out in the world of rugby from a strong base in Pembrokeshire and in the intervening years he has played a huge part in the development of rugby in the Royal Air Force and then in the Combined Forces team which is now known as  the United Kingdom Armed Forces Team and for whom he has played in four successive World International Defence Rugby Cup competitions.
He has also played in the English Rugby pyramid and is the current club captain of Henley Hawks, having qualified for his club cap after 150 games and with his running total now past the 170 mark.
David hails from a family which is hugely respected at Pembroke Dock Harlequins but he played for neighbours Pembroke from under 12 level since there was no team at Bierspool for his age group.
They were coached by Dai Alderman and Rob Haywood as they beat old rivals Haverfordwest in age-group cup finals with players of the calibre of Sam Taylor, James Roberts and Matthew Smith - but it was John Scrivenor, his games teacher, who set the tone for his future position in the game when he attended Pembroke School and was asked who his father was and ‘Sir’ said,
“Oh you’re ‘Patch’ Manning’s son? - and promptly put him down as a prop forward, where he has played for almost 25 years and in that time has been a regular in Armed Forces’ rugby at the highest level!

David Manning - scrumming down against The Army

Other sports and family matters

Ironically, football was David’s first love as he played centre midfield for Hundleton up to under 16 level because a few of his school pals were there and having previously played for Pennar Robins alongside Dean Lawrence, Daniel Williamson and Lewis Davies as a very good player.
His wife Lucia, who played hockey for Milford Haven, provides him with great support in his sport. She is a member of the well-known Todaro family who have hairdressers in Haverfordwest and Milford Haven – and they have a daughter Adriana (9), who is a very useful gymnast and has taken up an interest in rugby over the past few months.

 David Manning in action


On to Youth Rugby and into senior rugby at Bierspool

He played rugby in school alongside Dean Lawrence, Lewis Davies, Barry Parsons and Robert Hay - and youth rugby he played for The Quins from under 16 to under 19 in a very good team that had coaches of the calibre of Dai Halstead, Paul Rogers and Mark Irwin.
His initiation at senior level came about in his final season of youth rugby, with Lenny Scourfield as a highly-respected coach and Richard McIntyre looking after him out in the front row. His debut came against Ammanford away in the loose-head role, although over the years he has been able to switch to tight-head, and what he discovered was the physicality of the game and opposing front rowers who could be very intimidating as they glowered at you whilst waiting for a scrum to set!
Other  Quins players featuring in the senior game at that time were the likes of Gareth and Lee Scourfield, Tom ‘Turbo’ Lewis, Jason Keats and Kevin Bratcher, who all served The Quins over many years.

David Manning shows his ball-carrying skills

Joined the RAF – and hasn’t looked back since

That wasn’t the case for David, however, because a year later, in 2009, he joined the Royal Air Force  as a weapons technician and now, 15 years on, he has commissioned from the ranks and he now holds the rank of Flight Lieutenant and in an Engineering Officer, having played lots of rugby with the RAF and Combined Services, as well as for  civilian teams nearby in the English National Leagues’ pyramid.
“I was just about to be promoted to sergeant when I applied for officer training,” David told us, “and I was delighted to be accepted after 15 months full-time training at Telford on an RAF Engineering Management Degree.
“I was drafted to RAF Cranwell, in Lincolnshire for my officer training and spent four and a half months there - and in 2021 was posted to RAF Odihan (near Basingstoke in Hampshire) to work in and airworthiness role on the Chinook Helicopter.”

Selection for the RAF teams at under 23 and senior levels

But David’s rugby in HM Forces goes back to 2009, when his play in  his RAF station earned him selection for the RAF Under 23s team, the first team where he started to get noticed as they played in the Inter Services Championship and he gained his first selection for the Combined Services at that age level.
“I played for two seasons for both and it was a definite step-up in class as we took on a combined team from Oxford and Cambridge Universities and beat them the first time - and walking out at Twickenham was a pretty unique experience for a Pembroke Dock Boy.
“The following season I was elected as captain at the same venue but sadly we lost on that occasion by just a few points on an absolutely perfect playing surface - although the aura there wasn’t like I would imagine it to be at the Principality, where I would love to play. But I have played at the adjacent Cardiff Arms pitch in civilian rugby.
2011 also saw David called into the RAF senior squad and he played against The Royal Navy and The Army - and he was thrilled to receive his cap alongside another former Pembroke Dock player in Lance Tallett.

 David Manning on a charge

Joined Henley Hawks,  and then Newport (Shropshire)

“It was around that time I was posted to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and was put in touch with Henley Hawks, who were semi-professional, had a great pitch and facilities, plus an all-weather paddock and my rugby really took off as I helped them gain promotion from National League Division Two (South) to National League Division One — and for a final game of the season we beat Worthing in a ‘winner takes all’ contest in front of 4,000+ supporters and we did it!
“Sadly, we were relegated the following season but in 2015 we bounced back and actually won the division with five games still left to play - and a real boost for me was that I was chosen as ‘Player of the Year’ and picked for a  nominal ‘Division Two Team of the Season’ selection!”
Then, in 2019, David was posted to The Midlands for his Officer Training and he played for Newport (Shropshire) in the Midlands’ League and in his second season helped them to silverware in the Midlands Premier National League and promotion to National League Two for the first time in their history.

Great moments for HM Forces and a rugby career-changing time

After his time with the combined services at under 23 level it was a major step for David to gain selection to the senior squad and he made his debut against a Gloucester Rugby XV at Kingsholm – and he later played against a Welsh Crawshay’s XV at Sardis Road, the home of Pontypridd RFC.
“Then came a real treat in 2015 when I was selected to play against The Barbarians at The Rec in Bath on a very wet evening – but very memorable, nonetheless to play against a world-famous team at an iconic stadium.
“But for a rugby career-changing time we must go back to 2011, when the inaugural International Defence Rugby Competition was held in Australia and our country had three representatives as The Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force were allowed to take part against national teams from around the world.”

David Manning - leading by example

More action in the International Defence Rugby Competition

“It ran concurrently with the official World Cup at Australia,” David told us,  “and we had an amazing five weeks in the sun but were knocked out at the quarter-final stage against Australia, with The Army going on to win the gold medal.
“Four years’ later we took part in the next International Defence Rugby Competition, held this time in England, again at the same time as the Rugby World Cup, and I was delighted to be selected for The Royal Air Force – but disappointed to lose to France, again in the last eight of the competition.
“Moving on another four years, the rules changed because we were only allowed to enter a Combined Services team, under the new name of ‘The UK Armed Forces’, and I played as we battled our way through to the final where we met a Fiji team who had the majority of their players already having been involved in their full national side – and they were big, strong and very skilful as we had to settle for the silver medal.
“Of course, it was disappointing to go so close but we had the consolation of being the first recipients of the newly-instigated caps for representing the UK Armed Forces team!”

A fourth World Cup appearance – and the honour of captaincy

But David’s adventures in the competition didn’t end there because in 2023 he was not only selected for the squad but was honoured with the captaincy, and the fact that he was the only player to have taken part in all four International Defence Rugby Competitions, perhaps even more remarkable because he was regularly playing in the hurly-burly of the front rows at this level for 12 years!
“It was played in a superb stadium in Vannes, a team who play in the French second division, and we won a bronze medal as we lost 24-12 to the New Zealand Defence Force, another cracking team – and we had another international experience last September as we travelled out to Gdynia, in Poland, to take on their national team.
“As captain there and in the World Cup I had another role to play in the changing room pre-match, raising the tempo and in handing over a gift to the opposing skipper - and making a speech in the post-match dinners
“It was very hard-fought and it looked as if we had done enough to earn a draw but conceded a last-second penalty and lost 17-14!”

Back to the present – and still with rugby challenges ahead

So now it is back to the inter-service matches and David is rightly proud of the fact that he hasn’t missed a match against The Army or Royal Navy since 2010/2011, with games this season which will be played respectively at Kingsholm, Gloucester and Brickfields, Plymouth Albion in which he will earn his 23rd and 24th Cap.
David has also started a new role in The Royal Air Force in encouraging more sport in general, and rugby In particular to be played, especially by new recruits and he has also taken up coaching, having already reached Level Three in the coaching set-up.
And we are PembrokeshireSport.co.uk can only say what a remarkable story David Manning has to tell – and we at PembrokeshireSport.co.uk are delighted to extend our  congratulations – and wish him every success in the future because he really is flying the Pembrokeshire Flag with distinction”