‘A sport for all’ – How rugby league and touch rugby work together to grow the sport | Rugby League News

The RFL and England Touch Association have announced a formal partnership that both governing bodies hope will grow rugby for both men and women of all ages, as well as a long-standing link between the full-contact and minimal contact versions of the sport will strengthen.

Last updated: 20/01/22 16:29

The RFL and England Touch Association have formalized a link they hope will help grow both codes of rugby (Photo: England Touch Association)

When South Sydney rugby league players started playing touch as a way to sharpen their skills and maintain their fitness in an environment of minimal contact during the off-season, they may never have imagined how it would evolve into a sport in itself.

Fast-forward nearly six decades and the links between the 13-a-side code and the touch variant of rugby have been further cemented following the partnership agreement formalized by the Rugby Football League (RFL) and England Touch Association towards the end of the year (ETA). 2021.

The RFL has long had their own rugby offerings and perhaps more importantly than the aforementioned benefits, it offers a mixed version of the sport that gives men and women of all ages the chance to compete on the same terms – something both organizations have embraced.

“We call it a sport for everyone,” said ETA CEO Chris Simon air sports. “We would like to work with the RFL to ensure that we can broaden our offering for the disabled at some point.

“The big thing for touch is mixed spaces. We have almost as many women playing our sport as men and we’ve taken a very inclusive approach especially over the last 12 months.

“We now have a transgender policy that we carry through our sport, we have equality and diversity at the forefront and we don’t want to be a barrier to participating in touch rugby.

“We see it as something that absolutely everyone should be able to play.”

Shaun Johnson is a rugby league player who has developed his skills to play touch

Shaun Johnson is a rugby league player who has developed his skills to play touch

It’s not just at the community level where that crossover is, though, with top-tier stars like 2014 Golden Boot winner Shaun Johnson and 2020 NRL Grand Final player of the match Ryan Papenhuyzen both honing their standout skills. by playing touch. .

St Helens and England Women’s prop Chantelle Crowl is another who has combined playing competition with touch, encouraged by some friends to take up the latter and play for various clubs in the Manchester area.

While her burgeoning career with Saints and her international ambitions are currently the priority, the player of last year’s Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final has enjoyed both the on-field and social sides of touch rugby.

“When I started, I fell in love with playing touch rugby,” Crowl . said air sports. “Rugby league is my number 1 sport and the past year has been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to play touch but it’s definitely a good game and the combination with all the different ages makes it a really good sport to be . in.

Rugby league is my number 1 sport…but [touch rugby] is definitely a good game and the combination with all the different ages makes it a really good sport to play.

Chantelle Crow

“Skills play a big part because you pass constantly. With your running, it works a lot on your strength and speed because you do constant, intense sprints, but for a short amount of meters until you get touched. They all have mix and it has me also helped a lot in my rugby league game.

“Both games are very similar in that regard and it brings everyone together. Normally if you do a touch competition you go all day, play about five games and maybe six if you get to the final then is everyone will mingle and have a great social after party.

“But you just get to meet a lot of new people from different backgrounds, areas and ages, so it’s a really fun, social game and it’s also a great way to make friends.”

While this link between the RFL and ETA has only recently been formalized, the two governing bodies have been working closely together for some time, including collaborating on protocols for returning to the game during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The RFL have long had their own rugby offerings

The RFL have long had their own rugby offerings

Anthony Atherton, now the RFL’s social and inclusion manager, was also England’s high-performance director at the Last Touch World Cup in Malaysia in 2019, as Betfred Super League clubs such as Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos team up with nearby touch teams .

There will be opportunities for coaches and match officials to develop their skills in both codes, and ETA National Development Officer Sammie Phillips has no doubts that both the full-contact and touch variants will get a boost from this partnership.

“I think there’s a lot of synergy between the two codes of rugby and with touch derived from rugby league, there’s a lot of game similarities and transferable skills,” Phillips, who got in touch after an injury put an end to a rugby union career who had seen her represent England Students and play as a winger for Saracens, told air sports.

“It allows more people to access the sport at different levels, different ages, all genders and it’s that first step to picking up a ball and throwing it around.

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“A lot of different paths open up from there, and the entry route from no play to touch play is a much smaller step than going straight into a full-contact sport.

“We see it very much as a way to bring more people into the rugby family.”


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