Now that the long evenings are here to stay and the sun is shining, for the time being at least, it means you can wave goodbye to your multiple layers, waterproof jacket and long johns. This can only mean one thing – it’s touch rugby season!
While we still have the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand to look forward to, as well as the various International Summer Tours, we bid a sad but fortunately short, farewell to Saturdays spent dropping down the local rugby club to watch the men and women slide through the mud, rack up tries, and knock each other over like a pack of dominos.
Abruptly cutting out all that regular rugby, whether it be playing, supporting, volunteering or coaching, means we often find ourselves missing it after just one week.
Cue the empty Saturday afternoons and enter touch rugby – where the grassroots rugby spotlight shines during the summer months.
I have always thought that there are two ways of looking at touch rugby; 1) the competitive, accustomed contact player angle or 2) the ‘let’s get fit and make friends,’ perspective.
So first, let’s look at the ‘competitive, accustomed contact player’ angle…
The term above really says it all – this style of touch is competitive, and when I say competitive, I mean too competitive!
This is a trait some players on my team didn’t realise I had until the very day we played touch together. The trouble with taking away the contact element is that every player tries to play the ‘momentum’ card. A famous move in our club, which has its very own name, the Sowerby; named after a player, who undoubtedly runs an extra 20 yards past the point of touch.
Additionally, with being too competitive comes the question, what is going too far? As it is only touch, the age you play against can vary from Molly aged 12, to a Margaret aged 45, meaning there are fine margins to be watchful of.
Therefore, ten minutes in and twenty Sowerby moves later – tension builds and Margaret’s ‘touch’ is a more definitive push on little Molly, who is now involved in a more contact-led game than she signed up for!
Of course, it does also have a flip side.
Taking away the ability to wipe one another out, you are forced to use more skill and thought in your game plan. You can no longer send in your textbook play; crash ball centre - as there is no opposing tacklers hands to slip through. Instead, you have to use space, speed and agility to stop Molly out on the wing from stepping Margaret.
Interestingly, I don’t think touch is as popular amongst men as it is for the women; I guess it takes, away the chance to boost the male ego.
One thing is for sure, it brings out the inner warrior within the women’s game, as you hear a lot of ‘I touched you 20 yards back that way Sowerby,’…or ‘You were touched before the try line,” and finally, ‘that was a forward pass!’.
In hindsight, anything that might stop you from looking like your losing, actually makes you sound like a sore loser.
Although competitive and seldom fiery, it’s a great way of keeping fit during the off-season, and also a brilliant method of skills training. Best of all, everyone’s mates again by the time that first pint arrives on the table.
The ‘let’s get fit and make friends’ perspective;
This is a popular selling point for the game and a likely contributor as to why more women and girls jump on board with the game than men.
A game for everyone,’…‘open to all abilities’ and ‘no experience required’.
Phrases often associated with rugby, especially when you are trying to encourage newbies to play; but these statements that are actually 100 percent true when it comes to touch rugby.
Summer nights are all about getting outside and enjoying yourself, after a long day stuck in an office while the sun has teased you from your window. They’re also about having a laugh with friends and there truly is no better way to soak up the evenings than with a bit of touch rugby.
O2 Touch Rugby has largely lifted the profile of the game and some clubs use it as a hook all year round, to ease potential contact players into the game.
It undoubtedly provides fun, entertainment, friends and a way to enjoy the sun (what we get of it in England) whilst unknowingly testing and improving Margret’s fitness as she chases young Molly down the wing each week.