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

by Matt Merritt from

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.

UKAF Women Force South Africa to Dig Deep

The RLC provided the band for the evening.

Money was being raised for the Royal British Legion with this year’s message being Thank You 100; commemorating the contribution of the World War I generation.

Army Nurse, Nikki O’Donnel, led the team of match officals. It was her second time in the middle for a CS/UKAF match and she was also celebrating her first World Rugby International appointment which also involved South Africa with their international against Wales on 10 Nov 2018.

Having enjoyed the upper hand in the opening fifteen minutes UKAF held a deserved 7-0 lead on the score board.  However South Africa began to show their international class and exerting pressure on the UKAF defence with some strong running around the edge of the ruck and when the defence was under pressure a preparedness to throw the ball wide.  With their backrow of Lusnda Dumke, Sinazo Mcatshulwa and Aseza Hele beginning to boss the breakdown it was no suprise when they opened their account with a try in the left corner through Alana-Lee Horne.

They scored two more quick tries through Hele and Aphiwe Ngwevu to lead 17-7 at half time.

Immediately after the break South Africa were back on the attack with wave after wave of strong runners looking to break the home team resistance.  The UKAF defence was resilient and met the onslaught with a ferocity of tackling not seen from the team before.  Their commitment to defence drew the sting from the South Africa attack and allowed UKAF to regain a foot hold in the match with some much needed possession.  Gradually the tide turned and UKAF worked their way up the pitch until they were the ones looking to score the next points.

With their confidence visibily rising it was indeed UKAF who scored next as Sarah Batley went over for the try which brought UKAF back to within one score, even though Dodd was wide with the conversion.

Sean WIlliams now needed calm heads from her team as they sought the winning score.  However it was not to be and as they looked to turn defence in to attack once more, South Africa were able to poach an interception try to effectively seal the match with Ngwevu scoring her second try.  A further try to finish the game but a gloss on the score board but South Africa knew that they had been taken to the edge by a determined UKAF side who more had raised their game to match the physicality of their international opponents.

Final Score: UKAF 12 – South Africa 31

Sinazo McAtshulwa was awarded the Player of the Match bottle of champagne and as the South Africa players entertained the crowd through song, their captain, Nolusindisco Booi, received the winners trophy.  UKAF Coach, John Wilding, thanked his players and said how impressed he was with their performance whilst for the South Africa Women their congratulations were delivered by Springbok coach, Rassie Eramus.

Both teams contributed to an excellent and hard fought match with South Africa deserved winners.  But for the UKAF team, they can hold their heads up high, especially their seven new caps: Ruth Harper, Rhiannon Walton, Olivia Critchley, Elise Fletcher, Emilie White, Beck Wilson and Roz Mills

Words by Geraint Ashton Jones

RAF’s Sophie Gale Becomes 40th Women Player to Be Capped

Sophie Gale receives her UKAF Cap from Capt Ablett

8 players received their UKAF Rugby Union cap at the 2017 Remembrance Match v Wales Development, played at Cardiff Arms Park.  Try scorer Amy Cokayne was first up to become the 33rd capped player and Sophie Gale was the final recipient bringing the total number of Women rugby players capped by UKAF to 40.

The match saw three more players added to the try scorers list, Amy, Jade Mullen and Sarah Batley, bringing the total number of UKAF try scorers to 6.

Gemma Rowland added another conversion to her UKAF points tally

New cap and try scorer Amy Cokayne

Sarah Batley celebrates her try

Gemma Rowland adds another conversion to her points tally

Wales Women Development XV 39 UK Armed Forces Women XV 17

Wales Secure Win as UK Armed Forces’ Women Battle to the End

Click on any image to view a larger version.

The Women’s 2017 Remembrance Match, held once more at Cardiff Arms Park proved to be another victory for Wales but only after another enthralling game which highlighted just how vibrant the women’s game is some 100 years after the same venue hosted the first ever UK women’s match.

UKAF captain, Sian William, led her side out, and the pre match preliminaries allowed sombre reflection as players, officials and spectators took time to remember those who gave their all in sacrifice to their country.  The match raises funds for the Royal British Legion and their Live On campaign as they continue to support service men and women, who have suffered in the line of duty.

Sian Willimas leads her team out.

Both captains laid a poppy wreath before the minute’s silence

Alex Hardy carried strongly during the match before forced off with a shoulder injury.

It was UKAF who started the game more brightly and soon had Wales under pressure, strong ball carrying from the forwards, with Alex Hardy, Sian Williams, Amy Cokayne and Sarah Batley all to the fore allowed scrum half Lucy Nye to control the game from the front foot.  However though they went close they couldn’t find away through the Wales defence and following turnover ball it was Wales who opened the scoring.  Good work at the breakdown secured the turnover and quick hands gave left wing Jess WIlliams the room to go in at the corner.

The score lifted Wales and two further tries put them in command of the match but UKAF received a much needed boost when outside centre carved a sublime line to open the defence and go under the posts for a great individual try.  Flyhalf Gemma Rowlands added the conversion and at half time Wales led 17-7.

Sian Williams takes the game to Wales

Amy Cokayne showed her class through out the match and was rewarded with the final try of the game

Charlie Murray breaks clear for UKAF rugby’s opening try.

The second half was largely controlled by Wales who retained possession for long periods and entertained the vocal crowd with some flowing rugby.  With their forwards winning the battle at the breakdown they were able to launch multi phase attacks at UKAF as they looked to extend their lead.  Despite some fierce and committed defence, from UKAF, it was only going to be a matter of time before the pressure told.

With two further tries they increased their lead to 29-7 before UKAF’s hard working prop, Sarah Batley, crashed over from short range, to give the way side the faintest glimmer of hope.  However Wales showed a ruthless streak with two more tries before UKAF Women scored through the last play of the game as Amy Cokayne broke the tackle and had the pace to out flank the home defence and cross in the right hand corner.  FInal score 39-17

Ellie Gatlin secures lineout ball

Lou Dodd bundles Wales fullback Iodie Evans in to touch

Lucy Nye gets the ball away from the breakdown

Sarah Batley celebrates her try.

Eight new caps were awarded by UK Armed Forces Rugby to (in order of award) Amy Cokayne, Chelsey Snead, Lucy Nye, Lou Dodd, Emma Tadman, Kay Simmons, Sarah Mimnagh and Sophie Gale

Player of the Match, Wales Centre Alecs Donovan

Eigth new cap, Sophie Gale, receive her cap from Capt Ablett

Head Coach, Rowland Phillips, and team captain Carys Phillips with the trophy

Bianca Dawson is interviewed post match by BFBS Sport

New caps Sophie Gale and Emma Tadman

All images Copyright Alligin Photography / © Neil Kennedy & © Geraint Ashton Jones

Words by Geraint Ashton Jones

UKAF (W) have announced their team to play Wales at the Arms Park on Wednesday night

Captained by Wales’ Sian Williams the team contains no less than 7 current and former internationals and all are the very best of the 3 services, Royal Navy, Army, and Royal Air Force. 

 UKAF Team Manager Lieutenant (RN) Jane West  spoke of her pride in watching this collection of brilliant individual players quickly bond into a tight-knit team. “In many ways, its just like watching the way we come together in training, on board ship and all our operations.  Individuals trained to the highest standards in their own disciplines, from diverse backgrounds, bonding quickly to become more than the sum of their parts.  It makes me proud to see our Women showcasing the talent our Armed Forces have to offer, and the centrality of Women’s role in everything we do.  On the pitch will be not only 7 international rugby players with some 90+ caps between them, but some of the best aircrew, gunners, engineers and personnel of many other trades that the Armed Forces produces all united in Remembrance and Rugby.”

Catherine Henshaw of the Royal British Legion said she was proud to see watch the players train yesterday, and thanked all involved for their support to the Poppy Appeal.  She noted that the match falls 100 years after the Women of Wales first came together to play rugby and raise money in support of those who serve when the Women of the munitions factories played at Cardiff Arms Park on 16 December 1917, after some 247,000 allied casualties had fallen that year at the battle of Passchendaele in the Great War.  Cat said “it’s a remarkable centenary of rugby and remembrance, today these remarkable women are crucial to the Armed Forces, we’re proud of what they do and the example they set and thank them for their support to Poppy Appeal and the Royal British Legion”.

The match looks set to attract a record crowd.  Supporters can look forward to enjoying a military band before kick-off, a powerful pitch-side Remembrance ceremony led by the Welsh Guards, and the standard bearers of the Royal British Legion and announced by the haunting sound of a military bugle.   The national anthem will be sung by the talented Giorgia Rose. At half-time the crowd will be entertained by the Corp of Drummers of the Royal Welsh, in full ceremonial dress – dating back to the uniforms worn at the famous battle of Rorkes’ Drift in South Africa.  After the match the trophy presentation will be guarded and honoured by the presence of two of the Queens Dragoon Guards in full regalia.
The UKAF team for Wednesday night will be:
1. Cpl Sarah Batley
2. Cpl Amy Cokayne
3. Sgt Bee Dawson
4. LCpl Ellie Gatlin
5. Cpl Chelsea Snead
6. LCpl Heidi Silcox
7. SAC Sian Williams (team Captain)
8. Capt Alex Hardy
9. AC Lucy Nye
10 Capt Gemma Rowland
11 Flt Lt Chrissy Siczowa
12 Cpl Lou Dodd
13 Cpl Jade Mullen
14. Gnr Jess McAuley-Roberts
15. SAC Charlie Murray
16. Pte Sarah Mimnagh
17. Flt Lt Kay Simmons
18. Cpl Maria Waghorn
19. Fg Off Emma Tadman
20. Lt Cdr Charlie Fredrickson RN
21. Capt Erica Mills
22. Cpl Maz Claassens
23. Fg Off Sophie Gale
Head Coach: FS John Wilding
Team Manager: Lt Jane West RN
Ass Coach: SSgt Sarah Mitchelson
Ass Coach: Sgt Ross Tarnowski
Video Analysis: WO1 Rob Russell
Medic: WO2 Max Bowley
Doc: Maj Abi Mitchell
UKAF Women play Wales on 8 November 2017 at Cardiff Arms Park, kick-off 7.30pm, tickets available on the gate.

UKAF Rugby Announce Captain and Squad for Women’s Remembrance Match

Wales international Sian Williams has been selected to lead the UK Armed Force’s team at Cardiff Arms Park on 8 November. Williams, as both a serving member of the Royal Air Force and a regular international for Wales, presents the coaches on both sides with a difficult selection decision every year. But she says there will be no hesitation when she pulls on UKAF’s famous white jersey adorned with the poppies of Remembrance to captain a UKAF side determined to avenge their heavy defeat in 2016.

Williams said ‘The tradition of the game is one of huge emotion and I will do everything I can to lead the UK Armed Force to victory. We know what to expect and are ready to go to battle against a team that I know will throw everything at us. The Remembrance ceremony is moving and poignant, uniting us all – both sides, the crowd, those on parade – in Remembrance of the fallen. It’s particularly so this year, as we line up 100 years after the first Women’s rugby match in mainland Britain, played at Cardiff Arms Park on 16 December 1917 – at the time, the minds of the players would have been on the 245,000 dead, wounded or missing allied casualties lost at the battle of Passchendale that Summer. There is a lot of history behind this fixture as the game was played to raise money for War Charities, just as ours is today. The beauty of the game is that we can go head to head against a fierce opposition and still unite at the end and remember what really matters’.

There are 10 uncapped players in the squad. Reservist Aircraftswoman Lucy Nye, asked how she feels about the being selected for the first time enthused ‘Its an honor playing and competing for your single service but getting given the opportunity to play with all the services combined is amazing’, while another new call-up, Flight Lieutenant Kay Simmons, whose day job involves representing the military at court trials and overseeing internal legal procedures, reflected on her pride at ‘Being selected to step up and play alongside the best players in the Army, Air Force and Navy at a remembrance game’ describing it as ‘an honour’ to play given ‘the calibre of players involved’ and noted her pride at ‘the positive message we… …send out to women across the military’. We might add: across the military and beyond. This is sure to be both an inspiring and poignant night.

As Williams’ notes, this is a game about more than just the rugby, and will be marked as only the military can. The Welsh Guards will be present to flank the standard bearers of the Royal British Legion at the pre-match Remembrance ceremony, with a military band to entertain the crowd before kick-off; the national anthem will be sung by the talented Giorgia Rose, a bugler will announce reveille across a hauntingly silent Arms Park for the Remembrance ceremony to start and end the two minutes silence as all remember the fallen, both current colleagues and those long passed. At half-time the crowd will be entertained by the Corp of Drummers of the Royal Welsh, in full ceremonial dress – dating back to the uniforms worn at the famous battle of Rorkes’ Drift in South Africa. After the match the trophy presentation will be guarded and honoured by the presence of two of the Queens Dragoon Guards in full regalia.

The full line up of those called up to the squad is as follows (uncapped players marked with *):

Senior Aircraftswoman, S, Williams, RAF (UKAF Captain)

RN Lieutenant, C, Fredrickson, RN

Midshipwoman, O, Critchley, RN*

Captain, G, Rowland, Army

Captain E, Mills, Army

Captain, A, Hardy, Army

Corporal, B, Dawson, Army

Corporal, L, Dodd, Army*

Corporal, J, Mullen, Army

Corporal, C, Snead, Army*

Lance Corporal,, H, Silcox, Army

Lance Corporal, S, Batley, Army

Lance Corporal, M, Claassens, Army

Gunner, J, McAuley, Army

Private, S, Mimnagh, Army*

Private, E, Gattlin, Army

Flight Lieutenant, C, Siczowa, RAF

Flight Lieutenant, K, Simmons, RAF*

Flying Officer, E, Tadman, RAF*

Flying Officer, S, Gale, RAF*

Corporal, M, Waghorn, RAF

Senior Aircraftswoman, R, Walton, RAF*

Senior Aircraftswoman, C, Murray, RAF

Corporal, A, Newey, RAF

Aircraftswoman, A, Cokayne, RAF*

Aircraftswoman, L, Nye, RAF*

UKAF Women play Wales on 8 November 2017 at Cardiff Arms Park, kick-off 7.30pm, tickets available on the gate.

Media Information:

UKAF(W) will host a media day with photo, filming and interview opportunities between 0930 & 1100hrs, 6 November 2017 at their training camp at HMS Temeraire Burnaby Road, Portsmouth. In the afternoon of the same day, the players will visit the D-Day Museum at Southwick Park from 1400-1600hrs. Media are again welcome to join our players for this visit by advance arrangement. All media are encouraged to attend but for security reasons must register in advance by emailing Wing Commander Keith Dear at providing the names of all attending, their affiliation, vehicle make, model, colour and registration number and an estimated time of arrival. Note that attendees will need photographic ID for access on the day, usually in the form of passport or driver’s licence photo card. Attendees who do not register and/or do not arrive with suitable photo ID cannot be allowed access.

Match day media access at both Cardiff & Bristol is by advance arrangement only, either direct with the stadia or via

K P Dear | Wing Commander | Royal Air Force | | | Twitter @UKAFRugby

Maj Heather Stanning MBE Presents Shirts to UKAF Women

The history of UKAF may be short but it is built upon a long tradition of united Service rugby dating back to 1908 when the first combined team, drawn from the Army and the Royal Navy, took on the touring Australians at Portsmouth. Since that first match the Combined Services pitted themselves regularly against the touring sides of the Southern Hemisphere and more recently from emerging nations. However, with the advent of professional rugby and shorter tours the fixtures became less frequent with the last full international opposition being Combined Services against Samoa in 2010.

MAJ Heather Stanning MBE presented the 2016 UKAF Women's rugby team with their playing shirts before the Remembrance Match against Wales.
MAJ Heather Stanning MBE shares some thoughts with the UKAF Women’s squad.

That is of course if your view is limited to the men’s game but on Friday 11 November 2016, 25 UKAF players sat expectantly in a Cardiff room waiting to be presented with their playing shirts prior to the first UKAF Women’s match against a full international side, Wales, to be held later that evening at one of the most famous grounds in rugby history, the Arms Park. The occasion deserved someone who the players could both look up to and relate to in equal measure and in Major Heather Stanning MBE there could be a no more fitting sporting and Service role model to both speak to the squad and then present the coveted shirt adorned with the evocative poppy of the Royal British Legion.

Born to Royal Navy parents within ear shot of the Harriers at RNAS Yeovilton, but whose home town of Lossiemouth is host to Typhoons and Tornados, she may wear the colours of the Army and the Royal Artillery but Heather most definitely understands what brings the three Services together and also what makes each Service unique. Having completed an arduous tour of Afghanistan between two gold medal winning Olympic rowing campaigns Heather, currently the number 1 female rower in the world, certainly had all the right qualities to stand in front of the squad and speak to them with an insight that few others possess.

Before presenting the shirts Heather gave a very humble and thought provoking talk about what it means to be a team and the understanding required to move forward.  Her reference to overcoming adversity, as a team, was particularly prescient as the team learned later that evening, following defeat to Wales. Playing at international level is a big step up and the women’s game is moving forward. UKAF Women may need increase their pace if they hope match that level of development to remain competitive and maintain their International Remembrance Match fixture; a cornerstone of the Service rugby calendar.

MAJ Heather Stanning MBE presented the 2016 UKAF Women's rugby team with their playing shirts before the Remembrance Match against Wales.
Heather presents UKAF Number 8 and fellow Royal Artillery officer Alex Hardy with her shirt.


A quick look at Heather Stanning’s sporting and military cv quickly makes you appreciate what an exceptional woman she is. And it doesn’t take too much reading between the lines to realise that the demands on her time are equally exceptional. So from all the players and support staff of the UKAF Women’s rugby team a big thank you for taking the time to present the playing shirts and to share your thoughts on what is important in a team environment.


MAJ Heather Stanning MBE presented the 2016 UKAF Women's rugby team with their playing shirts before the Remembrance Match against Wales.
Heather with the Women’s UKAF squad and support staff.

Nine New Caps for UKAF Women




Nine new caps were awarded by UKAF at the 2016 Remembrance Match v Wales Women and were presented to the players by UKAF Chairman Paddy McAlpine.


UKAF Women capped player No. 24 – Heidi Silcox – Army Rugby


UKAF Women capped player No. 25 – Alex Hardy – Army Rugby

UKAF Women capped player No. 26 – Kate Hancock – Army Rugby


UKAF Women capped player No. 27 – Beth Dainton – Army Rugby


UKAF Women capped player No. 28 – Paula Robinson – Army Rugby


UKAF Women capped player No. 29 – Kate Edwards – RAF Rugby


UKAF Women capped player No. 30 -Jess McAuley-Roberts – Army Rugby


UKAF Women capped player No. 31 – Fran Athawes – Army Rugby


UKAF Women capped player No. 32 – Maria Waghorn – RAF Rugby