- RFUtv takes a look the success of at O2 Touch at Thatcham RFC
- “If you can’t beat them, join them” – Organiser Annabelle Hudson
People play touch rugby for a multitude of reasons – and most of them are covered in the new venture by Thatcham RFC in Berkshire.
Whether it’s sampling the unique social element attached to team sports; finding a route back into rugby after injury; trying the sport for the first time without the fear of a broken nose or cauliflower ears; or having a break from the gym, the 30 or so players who gather at Kennet Leisure Centre are testament to the varied objectives of playing the game.
Also proving you can also play anywhere, the diverse group that gathers on a hard court each Wednesday evening are maximising the potential of the sport.
Annabelle Hudson, who is married to Thatcham’s club captain, got the ball rolling in conjunction with the RFU grassroots campaign O2 Touch, in part to keep fit but also to make sure of some time with her husband.
“My husband has been playing for Thatcham for 18 years and unless I got involved in the club I’d never see him,” she joked.
“A few of us ‘WAGs’ played last year summer and then the opportunity arose for us to do it properly, so naturally I grabbed it with both hands and got the other wives and girlfriends involved.
“If you can’t beat them, join them.”
Lee Martin is currently recovering from a shoulder injury that is keeping him out of action with the club and finds O2 Touch useful for meeting his twin objectives of rehabilitation and staying connected with the club.
He coaches the group during their sessions and said: “I pass on a bit of knowledge to people who haven’t played touch before. Rugby is a tough game, everybody knows that. But touch rugby isn’t, it’s a fun game where you can get out, have a laugh, meet some new people, get fit and learn some new skills.
“We’ve got some people who have never picked up a rugby ball before but we’ve also got some senior players who are using this to develop their pace around the game, their spatial awareness and their general handling skills.”
Photo: Getty Images
One of that number, Richard, stopped rugby all together after suffering a serious neck injury but took the opportunity to start playing again and recapture the camaraderie of the game without risking further damage.
“I was advised by the doctor not to play and I didn’t want to risk it as it was my neck,” he said. “But I heard about this a couple of months ago and decided to give it a go as it’s a good chance to play rugby and get some team spirit back, which is one of the things I missed about the sport.
“This gives the chance for all abilities, ages, sizes to play and really enjoy themselves.”
Club Chairman Will Sewell occasionally drops in to watch, using the excuse of a dodgy knee for not getting stuck in himself. While he would like more of his first teamers to play over the summer to keep a rugby ball in their hands as much as possible, he is delighted that his club is now able to cater for female players, too.
Talking about the potential of O2 Touch as a player recruitment tool, he added: “We want to accommodate in our club something for everybody, anything to encourage people to be interested in rugby.
“If we can attract more ladies to come down here perhaps we could move to seven-a-side and if we get enough people we could go contact with a full side, while not wishing to take them away from this.”
Thatcham’s touch side have started playing matches against other fledgling teams in the local area and with a table at the end of season dinner, feel they are becoming a permanent fixture at the rugby club and part of the rugby family.
Find out where you can get a game of O2 Touch on RFU.com.