Rugby Union

IDRC tournament an 'exciting opportunity' for UKAF women's rugby

The UK Armed Forces women's rugby team have arrived in New Zealand for the inaugural Women's International Defence Rugby Competition.

This new competition presents a unique opportunity for all three services to come together as one team which usually happens only for the Remembrance Match. 

Now among the favourites to lift the trophy, this tournament is a chance for the UKAF players to shine on a bigger stage as women's rugby continues to gain momentum and popularity. 

Before flying out to New Zealand on Saturday, the team got together for one last training session at RAF Odiham in Hampshire.

The vice-captain of the squad, Sergeant Jade Mullen, says that this tournament is an "absolutely amazing opportunity".

The Army and Harlequins player said: "So many girls are going to be thankful and wear this with pride and to be able to represent not only this service but the British forces, is absolutely remarkable."

Some have already enjoyed a busy season of rugby.

Leading Hand Rose Dixon has already played for the Royal Navy against the Army at Twickenham in an Inter Services clash and hopes to cap an already amazing year in Auckland. 

She said: "It has been an absolutely incredible year, obviously as you say Twickenham, we went to South Africa with the Navy and we also went to France with the UKAF Sevens, so it has been absolutely mental. 

"And then to add this on top, it has not really sunk in yet, if I am honest.

"We are expecting a really tough competition, obviously there are some other big forces there, the Aussies, the Kiwis, so we are expecting some tough competition but we are ready for it."

Notable players absent from the UKAF team includes the RAF trio Flight Lieutenant Amy Cokayne, Flying Officer Carys Williams-Morris and Flying Officer Sarah Bonar, who will instead be playing in the World Cup for England, Wales and Scotland respectively. 

Team skipper Sian Williams, an experienced player who has played for Wales in 15s as well as the Rugby Sevens at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, says that the first game between Wales and Scotland is a "must-win for both teams".

The RAF corporal said: "The World Cup is going to be amazing, that first game with Scotland and Wales will be a tough clash for that group as well.

"For both Carys and Sarah they are both going to be out to get each other regardless of service, but the World Cup is such a big stage this year and the game is growing massively."

She added that the mindset of the UKAF squad is no different from the build-up to international fixtures.

She said: "For me rugby is rugby, and you approach it exactly the same way. 

"We are just going out there to have fun, that is the main thing, as well with it being services rugby we want to go out and enjoy ourselves, really enjoy the occasion and enjoy going to watch the Rugby World Cup."

UKAF play their first match against the Australian Forces on 11 October.