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England Touch partners with London Irish to expand Touch in south-west London

England Touch and London Irish have today announced a new partnership to expand Touch in south-west London.

This is the first formal partnership between the national governing body for Touch and a Premiership Rugby club and will utilise both organisations’ wide range of experience and expertise to get more people of all ages in the area picking up a ball and running with it to get active and healthy.

London Irish has an extensive community network, working with schools, rugby clubs and other organisations across south-west London and at their home base of Hazelwood, which has also played host to international rugby teams, NFL franchises and teams from a variety of other sports, too.

The club’s first team is also preparing to move into its new home at the Brentford Community Stadium.

England Touch has utilised the lockdown period to develop structures in place grow the sport, appointing its first paid National Development Officer and working proactively with regions, clubs and leagues across the country.

A number of new clubs have become affiliated to the Association, making the most of the variety of support and networking, continuing development courses and benefits on offer. Playing and training numbers have also improved across the country as people of all ages and genders look improve their fitness.

“We’re delighted to be announcing this new partnership with London Irish,” said England Touch Chief Executive Chris Simon. “It’s exciting to be working with Premiership Rugby clubs and the possibilities on offer; we’re certainly viewing it as open-ended both in terms of scope and time.

“We have a large number of experienced players and coaches in the London area who can support the London Irish community team, while they have the network to help us get more people picking up a ball and running with it. Touch is an ideal way to get more children and adults to try rugby. It’s easy to play and very inclusive, and once they give it a go, we’re convinced many will stay involved for life."

Newly appointed England Touch National Development Officer Sammie Phillips added: “The London Irish partnership is the first in what we hope to be a number of developing relationships across rugby league and rugby union. We believe a more collaborative approach is what is needed to really grow participation in oval-ball sports and we hope this is the first of many more partnerships to come.”

“This new partnership with England Touch is going to enable us to engage with a new audience of potential players and supporters,” commented London Irish High Performance Officer Mathew Heeks. “We’ve been working for a long time with tag rugby in schools, but Touch means that we can expand this into the adult age groups as well.

“Touch is a familiar sport within the London Irish offices, and we’ve been proud to have Will Serocold [former first team analyst] represent England on the international stage. We’re looking forward to developing this relationship with England Touch as an organisation and the London clubs who we will no doubt be working closely with in the future.”

“I’ve been impressed by England Touch for a long time,” added London Irish Chief Executive Brian Facer. “Touch is a sport which has been expanding quickly, both in terms of the numbers of people playing and in its profile, with both international and domestic tournaments being live streamed on BBC Sport Online.

“We’re always looking for cutting-edge partnerships, and this new agreement with England Touch fulfils that brief perfectly.”

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