Tartan Touch aims to open up rugby to all

The Offside Line's very own Stuart Rutherford burns Chris Paterson at the media launch of Tartan Touch at BT Murrayfield this afternoon - Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

THE SCOTTISH RUGBY UNION officially launched their new version of touch rugby at BT Murrayfield this [Wednesday] afternoon. Tartan Touch is designed to provide a simplified version of rugby with the aim of attracting players of all abilities, ages and levels of experience who are looking to improve their fitness through simple and social activity. 

The game consists of eight simple rules and is available to play at 20 Tartan Touch hubs across Scotland, where two ambassadors will host regular sessions throughout the summer months with the help of volunteers.

The hubs will provide sessions for both people who are discovering rugby for the first time and those who have previous experience of the sport, with the aim to bring people together to enjoy the benefits of rugby.

Clubs across Scotland were offered a chance to bid for a chance to host Tartan Touch for the 2017-18 season.

In the West, Hamilton, Annan, Stewartry, Ardrossan and Biggar will be set-up as Tartan Touch hubs; while Kelso, Melrose, Gala, Preston Lodge and Peebles will service the Borders and East Lothian.

Stirling County, Aberdeenshire, Deeside, Perthshire and Moray have been selected as hubs in the Caledonia region; with Lismore, Currie, Penicuik, Linlithgow and Leith covering the central belt of Edinburgh, Midlothian and West Lothian.

Former Scotland internationalists Chris Paterson and Al Kellock took part in a demonstration tournament on the back pitches at BT Murrayfield this afternoon.

“Even if you have never played rugby before, the eight simple rules will have you playing in no time.  Rugby is the best sport in the world, it brings people together and keeps them active and it really is a game for everyone,” said Kellock.

“It is very inclusive, it is harder than it looks, and for a vehicle for opening doors at local clubs to get new people into the sport it is brilliant. Some games of touch can get quite competitive, but this game has been designed to avoid that,” agreed Paterson.

“You can make it as hard work as you want – you can sub on and sub off. If you compare it to going for a run, I would say you are getting more from this. You’re twisting and turning, you’re having to handle the ball, there’s the camaraderie and team-ship, there’s the values there, so it is good for a work-out and it is good for a social exercise – it ticks all the boxes. And most importantly it opens the club to new people.”

“I said when I retired five years ago that I would never play a full game of rugby again, and I haven’t – but every time I get a chance to play a game of touch it is great. And you do get a buzz from it, there will always be that wee competitive edge so you want to try stop someone scoring try and get a few yourself, but first of all it is good fun.”

Each Tartan Touch session costs £3 with a £20 summer pass currently on offer for a limited time. For more information about Tartan Touch, please visit tartantouch.org and @Tartan_Touch for the latest updates.

“Rugby at the top level has never been more popular on TV and in the press, especially this summer with the Lions tour which is going to be a massive media event. But, realistically, unless you have played the game before you are not going to watch that and suddenly decide that you are going to go and play rugby. With Tartan Touch we can provide the opportunity for people to try out the sport,” said David Edge, who is leading the initiative for the SRU.

“We had a great quote from Jim Browning from Hamilton who said that this is the only way he will get to play rugby with his grandson. In Biggar we had an eight-year-old and a 68-year-old both playing in the same game last week. In the first few weeks we have been getting 50 on average at sessions, and with the bigger ones like Biggar, Ardrossan and Annan we have been getting 70 plus, going from eight-year-old kids up to a 76-year-old who has bought a season pass.”

“One of the great things from our point of view is it gives rugby clubs another way to engage with their community. Sustainability is on all of our agendas, so if you can keep your club open for ten more weeks over the summer and engage with your community then that’s got to be a plus.”

“We’ve worked with the STA [Scottish Touch Association] on this and they’ve endorsed it, bUt ours is slightly different. We’ve got eight simple rules so I think it takes about ten minutes of quick explanation and that’s you ready to go. There’s no referee, we’re not looking to crown a champion at the end of the season – there will always be a bit of competition in each match but that’s just an individual thing. It is just about fun and engagement,” he added.


About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.