Two of the seven Irish international squads for the upcoming European Touch Rugby Championships hail from Galway.
The men’s over 30 (M30s ) team, coached by former Connacht Rugby strength coach Greg Muller, and the women’s over 27s (W27s ) team, coached by Conor Slack, headed to Wales this week for today’s opening games of the 2014 championships.
They will compete over the next four days against international teams from Britain and the continent.
Coach Conor Slack, who set up Galway Touch Rugby in 2012, has been impressed with the application and enthusiasm of his charges despite their inexperience.
‘The W27 is a fantastic bunch of players and a joy to coach. It makes life so much easier when the players are so committed and eager to learn. We have an inexperienced side compared to other countries, but we have worked very hard and I am confident we will do our country justice,” he says.
While the women’s team is competing in its first international competition, the men have competed in the 2013 Home Nations championships in Dublin. Eight of the current squad remain from last year, while three more squad members have international experience in other age grades. Despite this, few of the squad have been playing the game for more than three years.
Coach Greg Muller, who has been playing and coaching the game since 1986, mostly in his native New Zealand, says Touch is a game for all ages and all skill levels.
“It requires a combination of good pace, agility and fast thinking - like playing chess at warp speed.”
Slack says it is one of the few sports where men and women can compete on an equal footing, while also offering “ opportunities to represent your country no matter what age you are”.
Touch Rugby originated in Australia in the late 1960s as a six-a-side, non-contact alternative to Rugby League. Instead of making a tackle, a defending player touches an attacking player, forcing them to plant the ball on the ground for a team mate to play. If the attacking team has not scored after six touches, then the ball turns over to the other team.
In Ireland there are now close to 300 players, while in Galway there has been a very vibrant touch competition running since 2012 with up to 10 teams and more than 100 players.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the game in Galway can check out the Galway Touch Rugby facebook page or www.touchrugbygalway.com