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.

Advert: Communications Officer

REQUIREMENT

In line with its new strategic vision and plan, UKAF RFC wishes to appoint a suitably qualified and experienced individual with both a passion for Service rugby and Communications, Marketing and Engagement (CME) experience. The individual will provide leadership of a small team of volunteers and support the UKAF strategy by developing and delivering all UKAF RFC CME activities.

ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES

The Communications Officer will be responsible to the Director of Operations (D Ops) for the strategy and implementation of all internal and external CME activities.

Primary duties include:

  • Development of a CME campaign to build and develop the UKAF RFC brand amongst internal Defence and external audiences in support of ExCo’s strategic vision and plan.
  • Marketing of fixtures via an awareness campaign including social media channels.
  • Liaison with the venue of the fixtures to scope and develop any joint CME opportunities to promote UKAF RFC fixtures.
  • Co-ordinate with sponsors’ marketing and PR departments to achieve the aims and objectives of their partnerships with UKAF RFC.
  • Broadcast UKAF RFC news and events across all possible media channels, including but not limited to Defence and single Service media outlets and channels.
  • Development and maintain a strong relationship with BFBS Sport to achieve maximum coverage of fixtures, ensuring that the appropriate level of coverage is obtained for sponsors and partners.
  • Coordinate CME opportunities with teams during training camps.
  • Coordinate and publish match reports.
  • Maintain the UKAF RFC website and the UKAF RFC archive (player record, caps etc.) and image library.
  • Manage the CME budget
  • Ensure the UKAF RFC brand guidelines are utilised and any correctly licenced.

KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, EXPERIENCE AND ATTRIBUTES

The successful candidate will possess the following KSE and personal attributes:

  • Able to navigate and operate within Defence and single Service CME policy direction and guidelines.
  • Able to negotiate and communicate effectively with both civilian and military stakeholders, sponsors, suppliers and supporters.
  • Demonstrate experience of developing CME campaigns for either Service or civilian organisations and/or sporting teams.
  • Understand the functionality of the principal Social Media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • A proven relationship builder at all levels and across all ranks; comfortable working at reach and on own initiative.
  • Passionate in securing the very best coverage for UKAF RFC; its players, officials and administrators.

The following are desirable:

  • Ideally be a serving member of Defence – Regular, Reserve or MOD Civil Service equivalent. Applications from Veterans are equally welcome.
  • Working knowledge of WordPress for website hosting

KEY BENEFITS

  • Work at the highest level of UK Armed Forces rugby.
  • Attendance at Inter-Service fixtures as representative of UKAF RFC.
  • Represent UKAF RFC at a wide range of rugby events and sporting occasions.

SELECTION PROCESS

Interested individuals are requested to email a short statement summarising their experience and why they would be suitable for the role to the Secretary UKAF RFC at secretary@ukafrfc.co.uk no later than midday on Fri 18 Sep 20 . Once selected, the successful candidate should aim to be in post ideally no later than End Sep 20.


Advert: Director of Operations

Do you want to work for the Pinnacle of Services Rugby? We are looking to appoint a Director of Operations, to work alongside the Director of Rugby.

UK Armed Forces RFC (UKAF RFC) combines the talent of the three single Service rugby unions into a single body to represent the UK’s Armed Forces at international competitions and fixtures plus high-profile exhibition rugby matches. Its aim is to provide match and tournament opportunities that are considered the pinnacle of Service rugby, either playing, coaching or officiating. UKAF RFC currently run a senior men’s XV, a women’s XV and an U23 XV.

UKAF RFC is a registered charity and funded by a combination of grants from the single Service rugby unions and commercial sponsorship.  Its operations are managed by an Executive Committee (ExCo).

UKAF RFC Director of Operations

UKAF RFC is looking to appoint a suitably qualified and experienced individual with both a passion for Service rugby and an eye for operational detail, who will assume a key leadership post on UKAF RFC’s ExCo and bring both personal drive and effective managerial oversight to a number of sub-committee functional areas to ensure the efficient administration and operational support of UKAF RFC

ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES

The Director of Operations is responsible for the off-field performance of UKAF RFC, working with the Director of Rugby (on-field performance) to achieve UKAF RFC’s strategic aims. As a new post the Roles & Responsibilities are still emerging, it is anticipated that they will include (but not be limited to) the following:

A voting member of the UKAF RFC ExCo.

Help set and deliver UKAF RFC’s strategic priorities in accordance with the Chairman’s Direction and Guidance.

Act as the UKAF RFC Data Controller ensuring the organisation’s compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Responsibilities detailed on the Information Commissioner’s Office website[1].

Lead the following operational sub-committees:

Media and PR

Kit & Equipment

Match Coordination

Work closely with the Director of Sponsorship to attract and retain commercial sponsors and partners.

Coordinate with sS Rugby Unions on operational issues and activities.

Deliver all activity within agreed budgets and financial framework.

Act as UKAF RFC’s “de-facto” HR Director and work with the Secretary in overseeing recruitment and succession planning.

Act as an Ambassador for UKAF RFC representing the organisation and / or its ExCo at a range of sporting and sponsor events and activities.

Represent or Deputise for UKAF RFC President and Chair as required.

KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, EXPERIENCE AND ATTRIBUTES

The successful candidate will possess the following KSE and personal attributes:

Ideally be a serving member of Defence in the Armed Forces or MOD Civil Service equivalent.

Able to navigate and operate within Defence and single Service policy direction and guidelines and ideally possess an understanding of Charitable status.

Able to negotiate and communicate effectively with both civilian and military stakeholders, suppliers and supporters.

Able to interpret Commander’s Intent and/or D&G in order to achieve aims and objectives.

A proven relationship builder at all levels and across all ranks; comfortable working at reach and on own initiative.

Willing to be the senior representative of UKAF RFC at key sporting and social events including speaking and presentation roles.

Demonstrate the highest level of personal integrity and uphold the values and standards of the UK Armed Forces and the special ethos and code of rugby.

Passionate in provide the very best rugby opportunities for Service Personnel.

The following KSE are desirable:

Be currently or recently active at a mid / senior level in either military or civilian rugby.

Held a previous Executive level appointment within an official governing body of any UK Armed Forces or single Service sport or recognised Adv Trg discipline.

SELECTION PROCESS

Interested individuals are requested to email their covering letter and CV to the Secretary UKAF RFC at secretary@ukafrfc.co.uk no later than midday on Fri 31 Jul 20.

Shortlisted candidates will then be invited for interview by a UKAF RFC Panel with the successful candidate planned as assuming the appointment of Director of Operations in time for UKAF RFC’s Annual General Meeting in Aug 20.

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.