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RAF aviators to play in Women's Rugby World Cup

Graphic shows three images of female rugby players between headers that show their country and name.

Three talented RAF aviators competed in the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2022.

The World Cup was held in New Zealand and watched across the globe, as Amy Cokayne (England), Sarah Bonar (Scotland), and Carys Williams-Morris (Wales) displayed true warrior spirit and impressive skill on the pitch for the glory of their respective home nations.

Image shows two rugby teams playing.
Amy (centre) playing during the Women's Rugby World Cup 2022 final. Photo by Neil Kennedy/ Copyright © N Kennedy.

Both Sarah (Scotland), and Carys (Wales) were knocked out by competition giants New Zealand; but Amy (England) maintained victories in every match so far.

Nearly 45,000 gathering in the Eden Park stadium for the final alone. New Zealand proved a formidable opponent, ultimately defeating England 31 - 34 and claiming their winning streak.

Flying Officer Amy Cokayne scored a hat-trick of tries for England in the final showdown; making both the first and last touchdown of the game for the Reds Rose.

Image shows two rugby teams playing.
Amy (centre) taking a tackle during the Women's Rugby World Cup 2022 final. Photo by Neil Kennedy/ Copyright © N Kennedy.

Firstly I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the RAF for its continued support both in terms of Elite Athlete Scheme and the supportive messages I received through social media throughout the tournament. It really did make a huge difference.  

On reflection my World Cup experience was overwhelmingly positive. So many new fans were introduced to the game. Lots of girls can now see a future as a rugby player and there is genuine excitement for where this momentum can take women’s sport. 

Amy Cokayne

Image shows two rugby teams playing.
Amy (centre) with the ball, during the Women's Rugby World Cup 2022 final. Photo by Neil Kennedy/ Copyright © N Kennedy.

All of us from RAF Rugby Union could not be prouder of what Amy and the Red Roses have achieved…but the real champion today is Women’s Rugby.

I hope England’s performance inspires more woman and girls to pick up a ball and give Rugby Union a go. I also hope that this inspires the British people to get behind women’s sport. We look forward to welcoming Amy and the other RAF International World Cup players back to the UK over the coming days, as we invite all within the Service Community to come and watch our International stars as they compete for the Inter-Services Championship in 2023.” 

Group Captain Jackson
Director of Women’s Rugby Union

The RAF Elite Athlete Scheme allows Personnel identified by a professional body to participate at the highest level in their sport, as an athlete, coach, official or judge.  The Scheme allows leave of absence for training or competition while remaining in the Service, with access to kit, equipment, training facilities, and events.

The Elite Athlete Scheme empowers athletes to pursue sporting passions while maintaining their beloved military career in roles which demand skills that are transferable to sports; from effective communication and teamwork to mental resilience and performing under pressure.

Listen to InsideAIR Ep 18 to hear more about RAF’s rising elite sporting talents and high-performing athletes.

Amy Cokayne

Flying Officer Amy Cokayne is a RAF Police Officer. She was selected for the Elite Athlete in 2019, allowing her to serve while representing England in Women’s Rugby. Amy has earned 64 caps and successfully helped the England Team to recent glory at the Six Nations 2022 competition.

Amy gained a lot of experience in Rugby, having played since the young age of five before moving to the Rugby loving nation of New Zealand aged nine.

Image shows two rugby teams playing.

Being from a serving family meant Amy would move around often growing up, yet, sports gave her a passion to follow and method to make friends.

Amy returned to England aged seventeen and was soon playing for England and earning caps, as well as playing for her local Harlequins Rugby Club.

Image shows two female rugby players and another mid tackle.

Amy then joined the RAF in 2018, and is grateful for the opportunity given to her by the RAF, to continue playing elite Rugby whilst serving in the Forces.

Been there for about three seasons now, so then I joined the I joined the the Air Force in 2018. We've been in for a few years now in the Provost branch and again, similar to Sarah's, massive thanks to them for allowing me to be on on the elite athlete scheme and really commit to this time of my life where you can play rugby because it's not going to last forever. My body is already telling me it's definitely not going to last forever.

Yeah, just really excited and have that comfort of knowing that I've got a career to fall back on. That's the amazing thing that the Air Force that has given me and to better still stay in touch with branch.

Amy Cokayne

Sarah Bonar 

Flying Officer Sarah Bonar is a RAF Police Officer. The RAF awarded her Elite Athlete Status in 2021.

Image shows three female rugby players.

Sarah’s journey in sports began with the team Great Britain and under 23’s Rowing teams. However, she found herself struggling to enjoy it and was advised to try Rugby instead.

Image shows a rugby player taking a selfie on her mobile, with the crowd behind metal barriers.

Sarah’s passion for sports was reignited and she soon met fellow Rugby player and RAF aviator Amy Cokayne. She debuted for Scotland in 2016, holding 30 caps and playing alongside Amy with the Harlequins Women’s team.

In terms of going through my Officer Training, the skills I have acquired are hugely transferable to international matches. For example, against Ireland, I recognised that the stresses I was put under to help with decision making come out during that game. At no point did I allow any negative thoughts, if somebody knocked on, I was thinking what can we do now? I was always looking for the bigger picture. It has helped me grow as an athlete.

Sarah Bonar

Image shows rugby player throwing ball.
Sarah Bonar training in New Zealand - Credit Scottish Rugby

Carys William-Morris

Flying Officer Carys Williams-Morris is a RAF Training Officer. She joined the Elite Athlete Scheme in July 2022, allowing her to train full-time with the Wales Rugby team ahead of the Women’s World Cup.

Image shows a female rugby player.

Carys joined her local Rugby club in the footsteps of her siblings, aged eight. She continued growing ever more talented and upon joining the RAF in 2019 represented at inter-service competition.

Image shows a female rugby player.

Carys previously played for England, but since swapped the red rose for the three feathers of Wales, in honour of her Welsh heritage. She now holds seven caps in total and plays for Loughborough Lightning.

The support from the RAF is amazing and I just want to go out there now and do well, to get through to the quarterfinals and see how it goes.

There are lots of cross overs, when things get tough teamwork is a vital part of Service life and I can transfer that.

People ask me why I joined up, and I am proud to tell them of the amazing backing I receive, so sport has given me the opportunity to tell that side of things. The sporting aspect of Service life is something that really interests people. I am playing at this standard with the full support of the RAF, you would not get that anywhere else. 

Carys Williams-Morris

Image shows a rugby player running with the ball as she pushes rival away.
Carys Williams training in New Zealand - Credit Wales Rugby.

Well Done Amy, Sarah and Carys!