A big twelve months for Touch coming up

The clock has ticked into the final 365 days before the European Touch Championships come to England.

The continent’s premier international tournament will be taking over the pitches at the University of Nottingham between July 18th and 21st, 2018 as the best Touch players from across Europe battle it out for the right to lift the silverware.

In 2016 there were 14 countries taking part, and with each country able to enter teams across several categories – Men’s Open, Women’s Open, Mixed Open, Women’s 27s, Men’s 30s and Senior Mixed, along with the masters’ Men’s 35s, Men’s 40s and Men’s 45s. With additional categories and interest from more countries there could be up to 3,000 athletes competing in the East Midlands.

A lot of planning has begun on the event, with meetings undertaken with the venue, team accommodation, and the European Federation of Touch (EFT) to agree roles and responsibilities on all deliverables.

Expressions of interest will be opening in the coming months and send directly to heads of national associations, with regular updates posted on the England Touch website and a dedicated Facebook page.

Touch in England has undergone exponential growth over the past few years as more and more men, women and youngsters alike find out about the benefits that arise from being a part of this fantastic sport.

Both genders compete as equals, and the minimal contact nature of this code of rugby means that all ages play alongside each other, too. The England Touch Association (ETA) is seeing more and more players and clubs alike become members with each passing year, and the impact of the RFU’s O2 Touch is reaping benefits, too, as clubs from that programme seek to develop themselves within the ETA’s competition structure.

On the representative stage more regions than ever will be competing in August’s Ryvita Touch Nationals, and England was the only country to send three full Men’s and Women’s Open squads to the EFT Premiership Permit tournament in Edinburgh.

This came hot on the heels of England having more teams than any other competing nation in the recent Senior Touch Championships, and the ETA is also sending its Scholars team – chosen from players who take part in the annual University Touch Series – to this weekend’s EFT Championship Permit tournament in France.

Then later in the summer four squads – Mixed 15s, Mixed 18s, Boy’s 18s and Girl’s 18s – will be heading to Dublin to take on their European counterparts in the 2017 Junior Touch Championships.

But the ETA is not resting on its laurels, and chief executive Gregg Cropper says that there are plans afoot to capitalise on the 2018 European Touch Championships and take the sport to a new level.

“The growth of Touch has been amazing over the past few years,” he says. “More and more people want to play a type of rugby and find that Touch is perfect for them. We are all about skill, the rules are simple, and because there is minimal contact you don’t have the type of collisions that might put people off other codes.

“The fitness benefits are obvious, but the social side is very important, too, with great camaraderie across the sport.

“The international game is obviously our showcase, and we are sending more teams to more competitions than any other country in Europe. We’re positive that by expanding the pool of players and giving them exposure to higher levels of competition we will be even better in 2018 than we were at the 2016 Euros, when England won the overall gold medal.

“This in turn reflects the overall expansion of the sport, and the number of clubs and teams being formed, as well as the successful pilot programmes being run in schools, has come about from the commitment and dedication of a massive number of volunteers who put in their time and effort throughout the year.

“We’ve come a long way in a short time, and believe that there is plenty more to come in the next 12 months, too.”

Click on All About Touch July 2018 to download a pamphlet to give to your work colleagues, friends and family to spread the word about Touch!