RAF v Navy Inter Services 2019
The Navy will take on the RAF at Plymouth Albion RFC in the Inter Services opener on Saturday. (Credit: Alligin Photography).
Rugby Union

Inter Services Rugby Union: A chance for the Navy and RAF?

RAF v Navy Inter Services 2019
The Navy will take on the RAF at Plymouth Albion RFC in the Inter Services opener on Saturday. (Credit: Alligin Photography).

Captivating, thrilling and certainly not for the faint-hearted, Inter Services Rugby Union returns this weekend as the Royal Navy take on the Royal Air Force in a men's and women's double-header.

Plymouth Albion RFC will play host to the first round between the Navy and the RAF on Saturday, but there's still a wait for the defending men's and women's champions, the Army. 

The Army don't get their Inter Services campaign under way until 15 April, so for the Navy and the RAF, this weekend is their chance to make an early impact on this year's tournament and to send a message to the Army who will be watching. 

Ever since women began playing in the Inter Services Rugby Union in 2003, the Army women have dominated the sport by winning every year except in 2019, where the RAF caused a major upset to snatch the Inter Services title for the first time

The Navy women have never won the Inter Services, but could an early win against the RAF help them to a maiden Inter Services win when they face the Army at Twickenham on 13 May? 

Well, the Navy will need to continue to improve on their 32-15 loss to the RAF at last year's Inter Services, where the Navy pushed their RAF opponents all the way with tries scored by Jessica Bryan and Sian McLaughlin.

The RAF will want to take the early win before they face the formidable Army team, but the Navy may sniff an opportunity here as the RAF will be without some of their star players.

RAF Rugby stars Amy Cokayne, Sarah Bonar and Carys Williams-Morris will be absent from this year's tournament after they were named to their respective national teams for this year's Women's Six Nations tournament, which also gets under way this weekend. 

For the men, the Navy and the RAF are also looking to get their Inter Services off to a strong start before they face the defending champions, the Army. 

The Navy have not won the Inter Services since 2016, but last year they beat the RAF after a late try from Jesse Lowe sealed the Navy a vital 18-10 win.

The RAF will want to take inspiration from their 2018 Inter Services win, where they secured the title after beating the Navy before the famous Army v Navy game at Twickenham took place.

All six matches from this year's tournaments will be shown exclusively LIVE on the Forces News YouTube channel, while serving personnel can also catch up via BFBS TV.

The women's game gets under way at 12:00 UKT with the men's game following the conclusion of the women's game at 15:00.

Find out more on how you can follow all the action from the Rugby Union Inter Services here.

Key players

Rose Dixon – Royal Navy Women

Former Wasps RFC and Basingstoke RFC player will captain the Navy side at this year's Inter Services. With caps for the Royal Navy and for UKAF, Dixon also played at the women's International Defence Rugby Competition (IDRC) in New Zealand last year. 

Lucy Nye – Royal Air Force Women

The former England U20s player will line up in this weekend's game from scrum half and as captain. Nye has also played for UKAF as well as for the Leicester Tigers and for Wasps. 

Sam Matavesi – Royal Navy Men

Born in Truro, the Flying Fijian player will appear for the dark blues and will play a crucial role in the quest to win the Navy's first Inter Services title since 2016. Matavesi plays for the Northampton Saints in Premiership Rugby.

Dave Manning – Royal Air Force Men

An experienced player, Dave Manning re-signed for the Henley Hawkes from Newport RFC last year for the 2022/23 season after a few years in the Midlands Premier, where he helped Shropshire outfit to comfortably win their league to gain promotion to National 2 West.

Watch: All the Inter Services Rugby action will be shown live on BFBS Sport.

Did you know?

Since the very first Rugby Union Inter Services in 1907, the tournament has resulted in three-way ties a total of 10 times in the tournament's history.

The very first three-way tie between the Navy, Army and RAF happened in 1924, with the most recent three-way tie result happening in 1996.

Analysis from BFBS Sport's Julian Evans:

The Inter Services rugby union Championship returns this weekend when the Royal Navy host the Royal Air Force in Plymouth.

Brickfields, home of National League side Plymouth Albion, will stage a double-header as the dark blues Senior Men and Women's teams face their light blue rivals in a Saturday showdown. 

The Navy women have yet to enjoy Inter Services title winning success. They go into this year's campaign on the back of a 5-27 defeat to their French counterparts Marine Nationale Feminines.

Results against the Air women in recent seasons have seen the side struggle. The last time the Navy recorded a win over the Air Force was in 2014 with a 17-6 victory. An improved display in 2022 saw them downed 32 points to 15 but after a series of heavy defeats against the RAF the result can be considered an achievement.

Rose Dixon will skipper the side from the centre, with the evergreen Sam Alderson featuring at fullback. Alderson has enjoyed an illustrious cross code Navy rugby career that saw her named The Royal Navy Sportswoman of the year in 2018. 

The RAF Women will arrive in Plymouth confident of not just beating their hosts but challenging last year's champions the Army for the top spot. The light blues were crowned overall winners in 2019, when they claimed their one and only title success.

Despite missing international stars (Amy Cokayne-England, Carys Williams-Morris-Wales and Sarah Bonar-Scotland) due to the opening round of the Women's Six Nations, the Air Force still boasts a strong squad. Former Welsh international Charlie Murray starts in the back row with ex-England Under 20's scrum half Lucy Nye dictating the match tempo from scrum half.

Meanwhile many are considering the clash between the Royal Navy and RAF the deciding game in the men's tournament. Senior Service head coach Dave Pascoe has amassed his strongest squad for a number of seasons and will be looking to claim their first title since 2016.

Cornwall-born Fijian international Sam Matavesi takes a break from Premiership duties with Northampton Saints and will love running out for the Navy in front of the Brickfields faithful having played for Albion earlier in his career.

An impressive Navy pack will include Cornish Pirates star Jarrad Hayler and former England Counties man Edd Pascoe in the second row. In the backs, Belgium international Jordan Gott returns having featured in this years Rugby Europe Championship.

It's the 100th Anniversary since the Royal Air Force won their first Inter Services Championship. The team in 1923 featured England internationals WW Wakefield and CN Lowe.

Incidentally, First World War flying ace Lowe held England's international try scoring record for over sixty years. It was eventually surpassed by fellow RAF pilot Rory Underwood who remains England's record try scorer with 49 tries in 85 internationals.

Air Force head coach Justin Coleman will hope to steer his side to their first title since 2018. Recent victories over Coventry and the British Police means the Airmen arrive in Cornwall with a winning momentum.

Henley Hawks tighthead Dave Manning will shore up the scrum as former Ealing Trailfinders man Sam Randle and sevens specialist Toby Evanswill offer plenty of pace on the wings.

Last season the Navy edged the Battle of the Blues 18 points to 10.

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