Royal Air Force lands in Aspen for rugby |

Royal Air Force lands in Aspen for rugby

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Rory Wood of the RAF Rugby 7s team brought the team to Aspen to train last week before a big tournament in Denver.
Dale Strode/The Aspen Times |

The Royal Air Force landed in Aspen — for rugby practice.

The Royal Air Force Spitfire 7s rugby team spent several days in Aspen last week, training for a big, international 7s tournament in the Denver area.

The rugby training at Rio Grande Field and the visit by the RAF officers to Aspen was coordinated by Mark Williams, a former standout with the Gentlemen of Aspen and a decorated alum of the U.S. Eagles national team.

“We were coming up with the RAF to play in Denver with the rugby 7s … this is our third year at the tournament,” said Rory Wood, a captain of the RAF Spitfire 7s. “I had been in Aspen. I played here in 2006. I came here and I played in Ruggerfest, and I really enjoyed it.”

Wood had worked for Williams back then, keeping the rugby contact in mind.

Back home in the United Kingdom, Wood was accepted into the Royal Air Force and immediately linked up with the RAF rugby operations.

And he was selected to the full side and 7s teams.

Colorado sights

“I said we need to get up to Aspen to see the sights … get up there and train,” Wood said. “For a lot of the guys, this is the first time they have come here and experienced the effects of altitude.”

He said the training in Aspen at higher elevation will be key to the preparation of the RAF Spitfire 7s team.

Wood said the rugby players are stationed all across the U.K.

They get together for rugby trips and tournaments, like the journey to Colorado.

“We all play together in the 15s (full-side rugby),” Wood said. “We’re all quite familiar with each other.”

With a mix of veterans and younger players, he said the team tries to bond and work together quickly.

Then, he said, they’re back to duty stations in the U.K.

First, though, is a trip to Aspen and a rugby tournament in Denver.

“This is duty for us, as well,” Wood said, “… the perks of being in the Royal Air Force.”

He said the squad includes a variety of RAF officers.

Pilots and PTIs

“Among us, we’ve got a couple of pilots, engineers, technicians, PTIs (physical training instructors) and an air traffic controller,” Wood said. “I’m a logistical officer, and I specialize in fuels. I just finished my fuels training.”

He’ll be stationed in the Midlands, in central England when he returns to the U.K. this week.

Besides the common bond of the Royal Air Force, he said, “We all share that love of rugby.”

He said the RAF Spitfire 7s squad is grateful for the opportunity to work out in Aspen and enjoy the sights of Colorado.

They competed in the Serevi Rugbytown 7s tournament in Glendale, taking on teams like the Bahamas national team, the Bermuda national team, the Mexico Serpientes national team, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Marines, the U.S. Navy, USA Collegiate All-Stars, the USA Falcons, the USA Hawks and the host Glendale Raptors.

The USA Falcons and the USA Hawks include players from the USA Eagles national team, America’s full-side squad for international play.

The USA Falcons won the tournament last weekend for the second time in three years.

The Collegiate All-Stars edged the RAF Spitfire 7s in the Bowl final in Glendale.