UKAF U23 v Harlequins

Tonight UK Armed Forces Rugby U23 Men will take on a strong and young Harlequins side at the HAC in London in what promises to be a fantastic experience in an amazing setting. Huge thanks to the Honourable Artillery Company for again supporting Forces Rugby in hosting the highest levels of opposition.

All UKAF management and coaches, across all squads, have done an amazing job this season, in getting competitive squads together to play in fixtures, building UKAF rugby back to the pinnacle of Forces rugby union. This work has been especially testing for the UKAF U23’s player support group, who have worked tirelessly at short notice, in sometimes difficult circumstances to get a competitive side out on the pitch against strong opposition. Each time we have seen an improvement and today’s fixture being their strongest test yet, against an exciting and talented team. 

UKAF U23 Men on the steps of Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

The games against Ealing Trailfinders and more recently Coventry RFC seen a progressive unity, as players from across the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force come together, taking on the unique opportunity that UKAF Rugby offers. No more than 4 months ago these players were fierce opponents in the U23’s Inter services and through the common goal of UKAF Rugby they have come together to build a team under the guidance of the coaches and management. 

UKAF U23 Men training at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

The game today is the culmination of the season for the UKAF U23’s and as such is their capped game, the only opportunity that some of these players will have to earn the prestigious UKAF U23’s cap. 

We must thank the brilliant staff from throughout Harlequins RFC who have been so supportive to this capped fixture and have put together an exciting squad which will be a fantastic experience for these young servicemen to play against.

UKAF U23 Men training at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

Some who might have been involved in the Senior Inter Services for their single services over the past month or so, returning to earn their UKAF U23’s cap and many from across the squad will be looking to have a full set of caps throughout their career for Single Services and UKAF. A set of caps that this summer for the first time will include a UKAF 7’s cap, as UKAF take a Men’s and Women’s 7’s side to Bournemouth and the to the World Military 7’s competition in France, both taking place in June. 

The match agains Harlequins is free to all. Come along and enjoy a top quality game of rugby in the heart of London!

Match Report: UKAF Men v Rugby for Heroes

In front of a noisy, excited crowd at Kingsholm the Remembrance Rugby fixture between UK Armed Forces and Rugby for Heroes promised to be an exciting game even before the first whistle had blown.

UK Armed Forces Rugby v Rugby for Heroes, 17th November 2021, Kingsholm Stadium – Photo Credit Neil Kennedy / Alligin Photography

The UKAF team was without some of their big names, though Josh McNally did travel up to present the team their jerseys, but the Rugby for Heroes squad was littered with familiar names from Premiership and international rugby. Julian Salvi and Jordan Crane in the back row are both familiar faces for rugby fans and Delon Armitage & Tom Varndell might both be retired but they give up their time for so many charity fixtures they still look match fit. Their captain Mike Tindall led from the front and it’s clear he still doesn’t know how to give anything other than his all.

UK Armed Forces Rugby v Rugby for Heroes, 17th November 2021, Kingsholm Stadium – Photo Credit Neil Kennedy / Alligin Photography

With so much talent on display, it was no surprise that Rugby for Heroes were the first team to score. A series of passes allowing Armitage within inches of the line after just three minutes and Jordan Crane, with the poaching instincts of a lifelong number 8, finding space to stretch his arms and score. Ryan Lamb was unable to convert.

It was all white shirts for the next few minutes, UKAF resolute in defence but unable to get their hands on the ball as Rugby for Heroes showed their pedigree with some lovely offloading. A dropped ball led to UKAF possession and one pass later Jarrad Hayler showed the sort of pace you don’t associate with a back row forward as the Royal Navy man sped through a gap in the line to score and get the UK Armed Forces show on the road!

UK Armed Forces Rugby v Rugby for Heroes, 17th November 2021, Kingsholm Stadium – Photo Credit Neil Kennedy / Alligin Photography

Army’s James Dixon’s conversion was good and UKAF took the lead. All this and still only 7 minutes on the clock! A couple of minutes later and the Air Force got in on the action too. Sam Hutchinson might be playing in the second row but he stole an intercept that would make a winger proud and charged through to score.

The individual talent on Rugby for Heroes showed through as they continued to dominate territory and possession but the fitness and unity of the men in purple ensured their opponents were thwarted time and again.

UK Armed Forces Rugby v Rugby for Heroes, 17th November 2021, Kingsholm Stadium – Photo Credit Neil Kennedy / Alligin Photography

More tries, from Ryan Crowley, Ben Chambers and Setareki Raumakita as well as a Rugby for Heroes score from Johnny Arr meant we went into half time with a 31-12 score line and a lot of anticipation that the second half could be as exciting.

Connor O’Reilly quickly got UK Armed Forces on the scoresheet in the second half with a lovely try to cap off some flowing rugby. The winger is currently plying his trade for Colchester but on this evidence could do a job in the Championship or perhaps even higher, he’s been a threat all evening.

UK Armed Forces Rugby v Rugby for Heroes, 17th November 2021, Kingsholm Stadium – Photo Credit Neil Kennedy / Alligin Photography

A wonderful, leaping, intercept by Craig Duncan propelled UKAF even further ahead and the team in purple were looking completely dominant at this point. They kept possession well, working the phases and patiently building their possession and 15 minutes into the second half the Army’s Nathanael Tichard-Jones ran as only a prop can to power over the line.

Delon Armitage, who spent the entire game playing on the edge, finally got Rugby for Heroes back on the scoreboard with a deft touch to control and down the ball. From there a period of end-to-end rugby where neither team could capitalise and the skill of the Rugby for Heroes team was neutralised time and again by UKAF’s fitness and tenacity and they’d capitalise through Rob Bell to add another to the purple side of the scoreboard.

With just under ten minutes on the clock Rugby for Heroes struck again, Matt Jess creating some space for Kotobalavu to score. Ryan Lamb, increasingly showing his flair threw a huge, winding, (possibly forward?) pass that referee Tom Foley, sensing the joy in the crowd and wearing a beaming smile of his own, deemed legal for a try that Lamb quickly converted. A Barbarians-esque moment and a good reminder that charity and entertainment are the keywords for this game.

UK Armed Forces Rugby v Rugby for Heroes, 17th November 2021, Kingsholm Stadium – Photo Credit Neil Kennedy / Alligin Photography

With the clock in the red UKAF decided they weren’t quite finished, Ryan Crowley picking up a dropped ball, zipping through to the try line and landing the ball with a big splash. The metronomic boot of James Dixon giving UK Armed Forces a final score of 62 to Rugby for Heroes’ 33. A fantastic game, a great spectacle and some players we need to keep an eye on ahead of the inter-services games in the spring!

Match Report: UKAF Women v Equipe de France Militaire Féminine.

by Matt Merritt from inthecheapseats.co.uk

It’s been a long wait for the return of forces rugby, with inter services games suspended for the last two years due to Covid we’ve missed out on some great matchups, so it was somehow fitting for the return of military women’s rugby to come in the form of a UK Armed Forces match up against Equipe de France Militaire Féminine.

An early sign that this would be a good evening came as a queue formed on Burnaby Rd ahead of the doors being opened and a boisterous crowd formed, friends and family of the UKAF team mingled with military rugby fans and even a few folks who walked in as they passed to see what was going on and they were all treated to a hard-hitting, edge-of-the-seat game of rugby.

The UKAF team, built around a core of international players including Red Roses star Amy Cokayne and Welsh capped players Bethan Dainton and captain Sian Williams, was jam packed with top end talent. Scrum half Lucy Nye is not just an RAF team stalwart but also a regular for Wasps Women in the Premier 15s where her half-back partner for the evening Daisy Fahey has become a key player for Gloucester-Hartpury.

Army referee Capt Nikki O’Donnell. Photo © Lee Crabb

As the sun began to set the players took to the field, anthems were sung, and referee Nikki O’Donnell blew the whistle to start the game.

From the off this was a hugely physical encounter, bodies crashing together, and every ruck being contested as if it were the last the players would be involved in. For all that physicality played it’s part, the first points came from a well-drilled set piece five minutes in as Amy Cokayne, latching onto the back of a maul formed from the lineout, found her way over the line. Full back Sarah Graham stepped up to nail her kick.

Try scorer Amy Cokayne came out strong from the very start. Photo © Lee Crabb

Almost immediately the French would reply as their own 15, Adeline Carrasquet found a gap, beat the UKAF defence and collected a chip from fly-half Pauline Galateau to score for herself. The French kick was successful, bringing us back to an even score.

A powerful UKAF scrum, forcing back the French forwards and winning a penalty gave Graham a chance to add to her tally, but the ball drifted.

Carys Williams proved to be a danger to the French defence throughout the match. Photo © Lee Crabb

As the forwards crashed and clashed, the UKAF backs probed and exploited openings. Carys Williams in particular was a constant threat with her rangy runs, but it was from the other wing that the next points would come, an all-Army affair with lightning quick outside back Fionidi Parker collecting a long pass from Harlequins centre Jade Mullen, weaving through French bodies and dotting down, unopposed, for the try.

Sarah Graham converting the first try of the match. Photo © Lee Crabb

From there the crunching tackles started to take their toll, Sarah Graham having to leave the field due to injury to be replaced by Navy wing Rose Dixon who provided a constant threat down the left for the remainder of the game. Lucy Nye looked set to follow after a thunderous hit from a French lock but was just winded and after a few seconds to collect herself shook off the effects to return to the game.

The Royal Marine Band excellent as always. Photo © Lee Crabb

The first half would end 12-7 and after a performance from the Royal Marines Band we returned to the action.

After battling time and again toward the French try line it would be Cokayne popping up again to score. Appearing on the left wing she deftly caught a long, looping pass from Daisy Fahey, handed off a defender and crossed the line. Another well worked Maul would see Amy once again dot down for her hat-trick.

As both teams made a series of changes the game began to open up and France’s tighthead Rykam Ait Lahbib, who had been dangerous all game and would end up playing the full 80 minutes, started to open up with some powerful runs into contact and fearsome tackling.

SSAFA Player of the Match Sally Stott on her way to scoring a try on her debut UKAF game. Photo credit © Lee Crabb

The next points would once again be scored by UKAF though, this time it would be impressive debutant Sally Stott. The Loughborough Lightning number 8 collecting from the lineout and powering over with a little assistance from her fellow forwards.

Resolute defence from the UK side all game long continued as the constant graft of Bethan Dainton, Erica Mills, inside centre Louise Dodd and talismanic captain Sian Williams paid off. Every ruck, every covering tackle, one of the four seemed to be at the centre of it and held firm to deny their opponents.

Pure power gave France a consolation try late on as they pushed through the scrum and stampeded across the line to add five points to their tally. Inside centre Lea Shaurly the scorer. The conversion was quickly taken out of hand, a shrewd move as Burnaby Road’s crosswinds made it a tough night for kickers.

As we wound into the final minutes France were determined not to suffer defeat by a wider margin, time and again denying the purple shirts of the UKAF, notably when Rose Dixon collected a pass from Amy Cokayne and looked certain to score only for a French player to deny her.

8 UKAF debutants. From L-R: Becky Wilson, Sarah Graham, Yasmin Suer, Daisy Fahey, Nicole Burger, Rose Dixon, Fionidi Parker & Sally Stott. Photo credit © Lee Crabb

The game ended 27-14. A hard fought and entertaining encounter that both teams gave their all. No doubt there will be some weary bodies this morning but the UK Armed Forces Women will be delighted to have returned with a win after a long time away!

The French side proved to be a very strong opposition. Photo credit © Lee Crabb

Doddsy Has Been Busy

Cpl Louise Dodd, who plays centre for Army and Wasps Women, has been busy off the field during the COVID-19 pandemic. A nurse with 4 Armoured Medical Regiment, Louise was involved with setting up the Nightingale Hospital in Bristol and was then on a vaccination team earlier this year. ‘Helping with the work against COVID-19 has definitely been a highlight of my career so far’ said Doddsy.

Photo credit Alligin Photography.

A keen skier Louise is also on the UKAF Ski Team. She was hoping to represent the Army in the British Ski Championships before it was called off, hopefully she will get the chance next time!

Good luck Doddsy!

UKAF Women’s Captain Delighted At Selection

Corporal Sian Williams is delighted at being selected as the Women’s Captain for our upcoming fixtures. ‘UKAF is the pinnacle of Forces rugby and it’s a huge honour to represent all UK Forces’ said Sian.

2017 UKAF Rugby Union Women XV Remembrance match against Wales Development
. Photo credit Alligin Photography.

Sian has 25 caps for Wales and also plays for Gloucester-Hartbury as well as RAF Rugby.

Women’s Team Selection

John Wilding, UKAF Women’s Head Coach, and his coaching team are delighted to announce the squad of 23 players that have been selected for our upcoming fixtures (details of which will follow shortly).

Army referees accepted onto Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme.

Capt Nikki O’Donnell – Image © Craig Watson

UKAF RFC Referee Society are delighted to announce that two of its Army members, Capt Nikki O’Donnell (QARANC) and Pte Michael Todd (SCOTS) have been accepted on to the Army Sport Control Board (ASCB)’s much-sought after Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS). Only recently opened up to officials as well as players, the TASS programme is an initiative that receives funding from Sport England and supports athletes who are currently unfunded by UK Sport but who have potential to represent their sports at the highest levels.  Army personnel are nominated by their sport to ASCB who screen applications and only select those who it feels can represent the Army at national and international level.

‘Toddy’ is a member of the SRU’s High Performance Panel and in recent seasons has officiated at Scottish Super 6s, Scottish Premiership matches as well as at UKAF fixtures, while Nikki is now becoming an established presence on the national and international circuit in addition to regularly officiating at UKAF fixtures.

Pte Michael Todd – Image provided by Flt Lt AM Reynolds – RAF Rugby Union Men’s XV Media Officer

General Tim Hyams, Chairman UKAF RFC commenting on the news said: “It’s fantastic UKAF rugby has two of its officials, an Army Reserve ‘Jock’ and a Regular officer, on the TASS programme, it reflects well on the strength and diversity of UKAF rugby officials and we all wish them every success for the season ahead”

UKAF Rugby has a new Chairman

The President of UKAF Rugby, Vice Admiral Ben Key CBE, is pleased to announce the appointment of Major General Tim Hyams OBE as Chairman, in succession to Air Vice Marshall Rocky Rochelle.

Speaking of his appointment, the new Chairman said:

It is a huge honour to be able to contribute, as Chairman, to UKAF Rugby and to give back to a sport that has given me so much pleasure. In taking over from Rocky, I would add my thanks for all he has done for UKAF Rugby during his tenure as Chairman.

UKAF 29 Rugby for Heroes 26 – Match Report

On a wet an gloomy November night at Ashton Gate Stadium, home of Bristol Bears, the U.K. Armed Forces Rugby men’s team took to the field for their annual Remembrance fixture. This year the opposition came from Rugby for Heroes and they produced a team littered with ex internationals and former Premiership players.

The first half kicked off and the Rugby for Heroes put the UKAF lads on the back foot with some unpredictable and expansive BaaBaas style rugby. Both sides made huge defensive efforts which forced errors, the horrendous weather conditions and high tempo of the game saw the ball turned over repeatedly but it was R4H that managed to crack their opposition’s defensive line first with their quick off loads and international class. They backed that up with another quick try and put themselves 0-14 ahead within the first 10 minutes . It looked like it was going to be a rough night for the UKAF boys as R4H racked up more points and pushed themselves further ahead, but the never quit attitude from the UKAF lads saw them get back in the game and go into half time with some points on the board.

Half time UKAF 7 – 26 Rugby for Heroes

The second half was a different story and the UKAF team emerged from half time with a new outlook on the game and met the R4Hs BaaBaas style with their own inventive and expansive rugby. Both teams stepped up their defensive efforts and the tackling just got more brutal. UKAF had R4H on the back foot now, they dominated the scrum and started making good yards down field with some hard running and quick hands. R4H eventually cracked under the pressure and UKAF starting adding more points to the score board. It was now a case of experience vs stamina and the UKAF’s military fitness and resilience kicked in as they managed to claw their way right back into the game. The last 10 minutes was a display of free flowing creative rugby which saw the UKAF score in the dying minutes and sealed them the hard fought victory the deserved.
The entire game was a pure spectacle of rugby enjoyed by both teams and supporters alike.

Final score UKAF 29 – 26 Rugby for Heroes

We would like to say a huge thanks to JP Doyle and the rest of the match officials who helped make this remembrance game the show piece of rugby that it was.

The Dell Technologies Man of the Match went to AB Gareth Rees Royal Navy

We could put our players out onto the field without the support from our amazing sponsors

Dell Technologies
Fujitsu
SecureCloud+
Collins Aerospace
Legation Strategies

And our charity partner SSAFA the Armed Forces Charity.