The Australian Services Rugby Union men’s squad, including 10 Navy, 14 Army and four Air Force members, has headed to the United Kingdom to take on nine other nations.
The month-long International Defence Rugby Competition is hosted by the British armed forces and features 12 teams from 10 countries.
The Australian side will be competing against the home country which is fielding sides from Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as sides from New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, South Africa, France, Canada, Georgia and Japan.
The competition came about when former Chief of Defence, General David Hurley (retd) initiated the inaugural comp in 2011.
While not officially affiliated with the Rugby World Cup, the concept was for the Defence competition to be hosted in the same country and around the same time.
Australian Services Rugby Union national operations manager Lieutenant Colonel Adam Boyd said they finished second in 2011.
“We made the final against the British Army who defeated us, so our first pool game this year is a replay of that match and it could be a bit of a grudge match,” he said.
“The British Army is very much the benchmark.
“They are clearly the favourites, although Fiji, in particular, is the dark horse of the competition.”
The Australian Services Rugby Union 28-man touring squad was finalised after a nine-day preparation camp, which included two warm-up matches against the ACT Griffins in Canberra from 21-30 September.
Australian Services Rugby Union head coach Warrant Officer Tony Doherty said this was his fourth year in the important role.
“Our preparation has gone well – our concentration period is relatively short but that seems the case every year so we do the best with what we have,” he said.
“The team is looking forward to the tour; there is a lot of excitement in the camp because of the fact this only happens every four years.
“Opportunities to go away and play an international competition of this standard are few and far between and being in the Australian Defence Force means we cannot be sure we know what we will be doing the next time this comes around.”
Warrant Officer Doherty said this was a culmination of a four-year process.
“We have trialled around 120 players over that period and we trialled different teams to see what our depth was going to be like,” he said.
“Our ultimate aim will be to play the final at Twickenham; whoever the opposition is doesn’t really matter, we’d just like to be there.”
Second rower Able Seaman Aviaition Technician Aircraft Aaron Louden, of 816 Squadron, said he was one of only two guys left over from the inaugural 2011 competition.
“I’m expected to take on bit of a mentoring role for the younger guys,” Able Seaman Louden said.
“International Defence Rugby Competition is a step above what we would generally be playing, but I’d like to think I bring a little bit of calm to the younger, less experienced guys.
“I’ll just reinforce what we’ve been taught, remember our plays and not let the emotion of the occasion get ahead of us.”
Able Seaman Louden said he was anticipating the rematch against the British Army side
“They’re a great side and we’ll be going for a bit of redemption from four years ago,” he said.
“My highlight will be playing in that first game. There are supposed to be a couple of thousand people attending – I’ve never played in front of a crowd that large so that will be a great experience.
“When we were in New Zealand four years ago the whole country got behind the World Cup, I think England will be just the same – there will be a good buzz, so I think just being in England will be a highlight as well.”
• October 8 ASRU v British Army
• October 12 ASRU v French Armed Forces
• October 15 ASRU v Canadian Armed Forces
• October 19: quarter final
• October 23: semi-final
• October 29: final