Touch stirring up a storm at the Rugby World Cup
The 2015 Rugby World Cup reached its pinnacle stage recently, with the all mighty All Blacks emerging victorious over its ‘big brother’ of Green and Gold. The bronze medal match was also an all-Southern Hemisphere affair, with the Springboks outshining the Pumas for a place on the podium. So why is it that the Southern Hemisphere countries did so well in the RWC compared to its Northern Hemisphere counterparts? All 4 semi finalists were from south of the equator.
Both the mainstream media and social networking sites have picked up on this fact, with various reasons being brought to the table. In several quarters, Touch has been mentioned as a contributing factor.
Touch is played widely throughout New Zealand and Australia, often from a very young age. The skills developed in Touch are easily transferable to full-contact rugby. For example ball handling, drawing and passing, agility, speed, fitness, and game awareness. Shane Williams MBE, a record try scorer for Wales, posted a video on his Facebook page where he mentions Touch being a difference between the two hemispheres.
Sensational steppers Nehe Milner Skudder and Shaun Johnson, both come from a Touch background, gaining international rep honours for NZ before taking over the Rugby and Rugby League worlds, with their skills learnt on the Touch field as kids.
Sir Graham Henry, the 2011 RWC winning coach with the All Blacks, cited that starting young is key to developing the skills required. He encourages all nations to introduce kids to Rugby (or Touch) so that they can very early on become comfortable with handling a rugby ball, develop an instinctive ability to pass and catch, and gain invaluable experience of reading the game.
Jonathan Davis OBE, Welsh International Rugby Union and League player, echoed these sentiments. He recently spoke on the BBC about how by playing Touch, everyone in the team feels comfortable playing with the ball in hand and not just the backlines players.
One of the key assets of Touch is that it is a sport for all. Anyone, young or old, male and female, can play Touch. Anywhere and anytime. So why not grab a ball, get family or friends together, and get involved. There are many clubs and leagues throughout England, find your closest on the England Touch Association website, under 'where to play'.