International Defence Rugby Union World Cup Australia

After years of planning, 2011 saw the opening year of the International Defence Rugby Union World Cup.

The International Defence Rugby Competition (IDRC) was created to run in cohesion with the World Cup, therefore take place wherever the World Cup venue is. Luckily for the select few, this year it was held in Australia and New Zealand. Three RAF Coningsby Personnel had the honour of being selected to represent the Royal Air Force in the IDRC:  Cpl Dave Hankinson (PEd Flight), SAC Josh McNally (AEF) and SAC Richy Craig (GEF).

12 other International Forces teams were entered into the competition and with teams such as New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and the British Army in the mix; it was a nervous wait to hear who the RAFRU squad must play in the group stages. The group stages were to be held in Australia along with the quarter finals, with the winners of each quarter-final travelling to New Zealand for the semis and the grand final. Due to the growing success of the RAFRU their goal was to reach the semi-final stages, thus getting the opportunity to travel to New Zealand and be part of the World Cup pre-cursor games. The draw was made and the RAFRU’s pool was made up of… New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) two unknown teams as far as the RAF were concerned.

The Coningsby lads began their travels down to Brize Norton on Sunday 25 Sep. The suspense of the trip made for much conversation with so many unknowns to be discovered. First on the list was being issued uniformed ‘Stash’ for the length of the trip. Then came the long flight to Kuala Lumpar and on to Australia which many of the squad had never done before. On arrival in Australia the lads transited to their accommodation which would be home for the next few weeks; Royal Australian Air Force Glenbrook, the equivalent of RAF High Wycombe. With only a short turn around from arrival to playing the first fixture the training began. Each day began with a double serving of breakfast, followed by a hard training session, lunch, then an afternoon training session. The sessions had to be hard in order

to prepare for the unknown PNGDF, and to help reduce the swelling that had grown in SAC Josh Mcnally’s already oversized legs. The Gym facilities at RAAF Glenbrook were of a good standard and keenly utilised by our Coningsby representatives: Enforced by our very own PTI, Cpl Dave Hankinson.

The high intensity Rugby training combined with commitment to train in their own time meant our RAFRU squad were well prepared for whatever PNGDF had to offer. PNGDF had some very strong characters and quick runners; however, when faced against a high tempo, eager RAFRU squad had nothing to offer. The RAFRU squad managed to defeat PNGDF 73-0 with our Coningsby lads having strong influence on the result throughout the match.

Following a big win, came a four day turnaround before the next fixture vs NZDF. Although all the team assumed this would be a much greater challenge, the RAFRU squad had an air of confidence about them after their huge defeat of PNGDF; this was reflected in a few days of very high intensity training. However, this was to be a very different game. The RAFRU players were eager to front up to the ‘Haka’, another first for most, then hopefully perform as well as they did in the previous fixture. The NZDF squad were very strong, from Prop to Full Back they seemed huge and had the speed to back it up. The RAFRU squad were now in a competition against a high standard squad, much like the Army at Inter-Services. This resulted in a 52-0 loss, a big hit for the RAF lads.

The eye opening fixture against NZDF showed our RAFRU and Coningsby representatives just what kind of standard of competition they were to face and that they were ‘off the mark’ somewhat at the moment. However, the win against PNGDF meant that they had a quarter-final to compete in and hopefully get their game back on track.  With a little longer to prepare for this fixture, the squad were told they had drawn the Australian Services Rugby Union (ASRU) in the quarter finals. After reviewing how ASRU had performed in previous fixtures, the RAFRU squad were expecting a similar strength team to that of the NZDF… so the training paddock was main location for the week.

Fresh from a breather after some tough preparations the RAFRU lads travelled into the heart of Sydney for what could possibly be their last fixture should they lose. The game proved just as difficult as that against NZDF, however, this time they were up to the standard. The ASRU squad were quick, but the RAFRU players dug deep and were only 13-0 down at half time. Such a vast improvement after the NZDF fixture gave the RAFRU lads a glimmer of hope, that they could reach that semi-final stage and travel to New Zealand. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, the ASRU squad managed to keep the same standard of Rugby up for the entire eighty minutes where our Royal Air Force lads could not. Another defeat, although it was less than that to NZDF and this time they managed to get 5 points on the scoreboard.

The improvements made between the NZDF fixture and ASRU were a reflection on the high quality training and efforts that the whole squad put in whilst taking part in the IDRC. However, it also highlighted some individual areas for development which was another reason for taking part in the event. The target for the RAFRU squad and management team was always directed towards improving, then competing in the Inter-Services April 2012. The IDRC experience combined with personal training and some pre-IS fixtures should ensure the squad have the best opportunities to compete. This event was a fantastic experience for the Coningsby lads; Dave, Josh and Richy and they will all now be training hard to represent the Coningsby Panthers Rugby Union squad and to ensure they are prepared for the IS 2012. .


Cpl Dave Hankinson

JNCO PEd Flight