Touch Rugby – what can we learn?

There has been a lot going on in the world or Rugby of late.

Last week in Union the super 15’s wrapped up with an incredible final. The Womens world Cup got underway, and we’re starting to gear up for the start of the Rugby Championship. There are national competitions in their first round with the ITM cup in New Zealand, Currie Cup in South Africa, and the Premiership 7’s in England and Wales. Additionally the Northern Hemisphere club sides are heading out of pre-season training and into their pre-season friendlies.

Rugby League also is ramping up with both the Northern Hemispheres Super League and in Australia and New Zealand the NRL firmly in the business stages of the season.

Something that may have slipped past your attention though is a small competition going on this weekend in Swansea. The European Touch Rugby Championships.

Touch while well followed in Australia and New Zealand is rather less well supported in Europe. However it’s been growing steadily over the last 10-12 years and competitions like the North Atlantic Touch series and the European Touch Championships mentioned above have increased teams exposure to the elite level improving the standard of play.

It’s a fast and structured game, where fitness and the basic core skills are the main focus.

In style, the pattern of play is probably closest to Rugby League but there is a lot that Union players through all levels can learn from the game.

The most obvious is the focus on the basic ball skills of passing, catching and beating defenders. The game is played with a size 4 ball, so one smaller than union, so while it’s easier to manipulate with one hand it’s a lot harder to catch and the margin for error goes up drastically, and the speed that defences come up mean decision making is important.

Space is of a surprising premium in touch rugby so good footwork and the ability to stand someone up and give yourself the fraction of a second to get away is priceless.

Additionally something i like about touch rugby is the way players come onto the ball. In the video below we can see that every player comes onto the ball at pace, no one is static and they are making yards before they even get the ball in hand – this is something that can often get overlooked in Union, the runner from deep is always going to have an advantage over the static defender.

If you think about it if a player is moving before the ball is played they are already at a decent speed whilst the defender is still accelerating. Now transpose that to Union and you can see the man travelling faster will get to the gain line before the static defender. Obviously things are a little different around the contact area in Touch to Union but that momentum should also give the ball carrier an advantage over the less dynamic defender.

All of this is fine, but probably the biggest skill of use to union players is their ability to finish off a move. Bear in mind this is a sport where the lightest of touches counts as a tackle, scoring is a lot harder than people first expect – especially in the traffic area of the midfield.

Below is a couple of highlight videos from last years Trans-Tasmin touch series.

A few things to watch out for, the speed the players come onto the ball, also in the first video when a scoring chance comes up watch how low the players get, how they place the ball with one hand – this is all about making it hard for the defender to get to them. Be a small target and make the defender have to come from high to low (giving you the advantage as you’re already there and moving forward). It’s not an easy skill to master, but it’s an important one that we see a lot of  in NRL – those miracle tries, one hand pops out the mass of bodies in the air dotting the ball down as they somersault over the line? It’s a skill that’s been honed on the touch rugby fields and I believe is transferring to Union more and more.

In the second video watch when the teams drive, how every player is travelling onto the ball at pace to make the most of the defence going backwards.



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