A coach and a student from Hartpury are both making an impact on the international touch rugby stage – for different countries!
Peter Cook, who is Hartpury’s AASE Women's Rugby Manager, is currently preparing the England Touch senior mixed team for the 2014 European Touch Championships, while 17-year-old A-level student Megan Jones – a member of the Hartpury Under-18s AASE A team – will be playing for Wales in the same competition, having recently starred for England Sevens!
Peter was approached to get involved with England Touch when he was playing for Oxford Touch in October 2013 and is now the assistant coach for the Over-30s, supporting head coach Martin Wright, who is from Stroud. One of the players is also from Gloucestershire – Ollie Sills, from Cheltenham, while former Hartpury student, Byron Tibbitts is also part of the set-up.
The team certainly have pressure on their shoulders to perform, with England having won the last three European Touch Championships. In the tournament, which starts on August 7th, they will face all of the Home Nations as well as France, Spain and Holland, among others.
And as soon as this tournament is behind them, they will begin gearing up for the World Touch Cup in 2015, having finished fourth in that competition in 2011.
Peter said: “Touch rugby is growing hugely in popularity in Europe, particularly with the introduction of O2 touch and it’s massive in the southern hemisphere. It has been for many years, which is why they usually dominate in the World Cup but the northern hemisphere teams are getting stronger and should give them a run for their money in 2015.
“These tournaments are incredibly competitive, and we’re expecting a tough challenge to defend our title at the Euros.
“We’ve got a strong squad though who have been working well together at a series of training days and weekends in the run-up to the competition, including one at Hartpury. We move them around the country because squad members come from all over the country, from Cornwall to Newcastle.
“The great thing about touch rugby is that it can be played by people of all ages, skill levels and builds. It appeals to people who want to play rugby but without the contact, and can be a great option for people who have had to give up contact sports because of injuries.
“For me as a coach, I can translate the skills learned and coached in touch to all forms of rugby – whether that’s Sevens, full contact or non-contact. It’s fast and evasive and it develops running, agility, passing, catching and communication.”
Touch is one of the few team sports where men and women compete on teams together, not only socially but at an international level. There are currently approximately 5,000 people playing touch in organised leagues around the UK. England Touch includes men’s, women’s and mixed Open, Senior and veterans teams as well as Under-18s.