Skip to main content

LCpl Millie Williams (AGC (RMP)) admits the Army still have much to work on as they look to seal the Inter Service Championship against the Navy at Twickenham next month (May 13).

The Red Shirts got off the mark with a 36-8 victory against the RAF at Kingsholm, albeit a slow start saw them 8-0 down early on, and LCpl Williams revealed: “We celebrated well after the win and I’ve just about come down from it now, but you could see from the reactions at the end of the game just how much it meant to the whole squad.

“We’ve had four or five games leading up to it and now we’ve got one tick in the box, ready to push us onto the Navy – it’s exciting.

“The first 15 minutes was nervy, and we gave up a lot of possession from our own mistakes – the first three or four touches we had were mistakes – and we pinned ourselves in our own half and 22.

“You feel the pressure from there and we just needed something to settle the nerves and show we could get amongst it, break them down, square it and push on.”

That something came as Pte Courtney Pursglove (RLC) crossed the whitewash for the first of two tries, and from there the Army never looked back as they ran in 36 unanswered points.

LCpl Williams continued: “Courtney’s rapid, got skills and as backs we’ve been working a lot on our kicking game in attack – myself, Courtney, SSgt Jade (Mullen, AGC, (SPS)), we work on stuff in training about it just because it’s fun – to see her score off something we’d been working on was good to see.

“We’ve got a lot more to give and I don’t think we showed our strongest performance, especially in the first 20 minutes – we’ve got a lot of improvements to make.

“(Head coach, WO2) Sarah Mitchelson (RLC) wants us to enjoy it but she is also very strong on ‘knowing your job’ – we did it against the RAF but we’ve got lots more to do for the Navy game. We’re excited to get back into camp before that.

“We train competitively and we’re out to win, we want to retain the Inter-Service title, but we’ve also seen the Navy make plenty of strides in the past few years and it’s only good for the Championship.

“It makes it much more competitive, much more interesting, but we’ve also worked on our skillsets, moves, and ourselves, the same as the RAF game.

“We knew what they would bring but we focused on our strengths.”

Millie in action v the Royal Air Force at Kingsholm earlier this month.

Image – Alligin Photography © Neil Kennedy

Fly-half LCpl Williams, 24, is part of a side featuring a nice blend of youth and experience, and she believes this bodes well both for the Navy encounter and the near future.

She said: “We joked at the (Leicester) Tigers game the combined age of the front row was about 110 or 115, so we know there are some parts of the team who are aging, and they won’t be around forever – we hope they do, but we are also building long-term futures.

“(In the backs, (Gnr) Amy Carr (RA)) played her first Inter-Services at 18 last year and showed she’s a class act, slotting straight into the team.

“As a back line in general we are quite young, we’ve got a few older players, but we have got the scope to stick around and build the kind of connections you want for the next couple of years at least.”

Standing at 1.74m, the stand-off who is part of the Royal Military Police, has much to look forward to in the coming weeks, but has her sights firmly set on the Navy clash.

She explained: “We’re all soldiers first so we’ll be paying attention to the Coronation even if we’re not involved, but our biggest look forward to is the rugby.

“The RMP are busy, we have a job out and about in the Units and a lot of other people, but I think rugby has helped in I can happily talk from Privates up to Majors in the team.

“Chantelle (Mjr Miller), she is an OC in my regiment, but against the RAF she’s one of my friends and teammates, so you know when to turn it on and off. You’ve got to respect the rank structure, but they’re also approachable, they’re people.

“I’m much more comfortable around the structure and while it’s difficult trying to balance the work and rugby, my Unit’s supportive at the minute and know it’s a massive goal of mine – I’m juggling the work so nothing slides.”

LCpl Williams’s journey to the Red Shirts – which saw her claim her third cap against the RAF alongside six UKAF appearances – began back in Wales and she revealed: “I played football a little bit with the boys, then fell off playing mixed gender, but luckily I found rugby when I was 15.

Millie played for the UK Armed Forces at the inaugural Women’s International Defence Rugby Competition in New Zealand in November 2022.

Image – Alligin Photography © Neil Kennedy

“Wattstown RFC was a proper local valleys club, they were literally 10 minutes away and my dad’s club growing up while my grandad had been on the board. It’s a massive family club which appealed to me at the time.

“When I was younger there weren’t any girls’ teams available growing up, but when I started three or four started up so you could have some competition and a league.

“Some of the girls I’ve been playing with started earlier and some started later at 17,18, so it was a lot to catch up on, but from my first or second season I was involved with the Cardiff Blues, playing in the Prem and getting that experience was important.”

Indeed the support of her parents has proved invaluable and LCpl Williams admitted her current job and sport have been somewhat intertwined since she took it up.

She said: “I was working in children’s services at the time, a good job I enjoyed but one I just knew I didn’t want to do long-term, and I toyed with joining the Army when I was 16 or 17.

“I’d always been interested and then I guess I was tipped over the jump where the day job in the RMP looked like something I’d enjoy, then the rugby would be an added benefit.

“I used to play civilian rugby with Jade when I was about 18 and things would pop up on Twitter and Instagram – I’d see her playing a lot of rugby.

“So while rugby wasn’t the sole reason (for joining), it was a contributory factor.”

With the quality of the Army side improving all the time – Pte Pursglove returned to action with Sale Sharks the weekend after starring at Kingsholm – LCpl Williams, who is currently posted to 174 Provost Company in Donnington, discussed the possibility of playing more as she said: “Prem 15s is near-enough full-time and work just couldn’t support that because you’d be losing man-power at company level, so while I wish I could play, it’s one of those things you can’t as much as the RMP have tried to support.

“At the moment Hartpury is an hour-and-a-half away and a 5pm start, so if I were to do it I’d probably have to find a Unit nearer another side or leave work earlier.

“I’d love it, the competitive nature, and high-level rugby is important – my time at Worcester was some of the best I’ve played – and even trying to get some of the other girls involved could be important.

“Amy is outstanding and I think it would push her on even further, teams would be dying to take her.

“There’s always time for community clubs and they are an important pathway, but I think if you’re pushing on you’ve got to be looking for your Prem 15s and Championship teams to develop further.”

Returning to more pressing matters, the stand-off ended by looking ahead to the Navy Twickenham showdown, her memories of last year’s clash and the importance of the Army cap.

Current Army Skipper SSgt Jade Mullen inspired Millie to want to join the Army and has been part of her development of her game.

Image – Alligin Photography © Lee Crabb

Speaking about HQ, she beamed: “It’s such a big, good stadium to play in and even the day or two either side where you’re in the hotel, the atmosphere – the morning before the game I popped to my car to pick something up and already the streets were full from 8.30/9am.

“Then we were marched from the hotel with a Military Band which was one of the coolest experiences ever – it’s only a five/10-minute walk into the stadium – but it was packed and everyone’s interest was piqued. I didn’t know it was happening until we were told to meet in reception!”

She continued: “You have to keep your hat on all day, at breakfast the next day and then when you go back, also the same which can be tricky after a few beers.

“But last year we were in a hurry to get out the changing room and I was half dressed, I saw Jade come in with some caps and I knew it was a massive deal, so when me, Courtney and Amy got ours at the same time, we were absolutely chuffed, and we loved it for days after that.

“We felt it for days after as part of the team and nobody can ever take that away from you – you are an Army Senior Women’s player.

“Through the trials there are about 50 players trying to perform in a game against the likes of the police, Sweden, Brunel University, showing what they can offer the team, but it’s the caps that count and the girls fight tooth and nail for them.

“You work so hard to keep it and the five or so new girls who got one, they’ve done so well all season to get the chance.”

CLICK HERE for information about Army Navy at Twickenham on Saturday, May 13th.

Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks

Header image – Alligin Photography © Cat Goryn

Feature image – Alligin Photography © Lee Crabb