Tackle your fit­ness with a touch of class

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Health & Fitness -

Ishould con­fess from the get-go: I haven’t played rugby since… wait, I’ve never played rugby. Ac­tu­ally, with the ex­cep­tion of a cou­ple of drunken Satur­day af­ter­noons spent star­ing at screens in pubs in my 20s, I’ve never even watched a rugby game. The only ex­pe­ri­ence I have of this sport is chuck­ing the ball around with my big brother when I was 10. Thank­fully he taught me about the spin and ball-pass (back­wards) move­ment, but that is, hon­estly, all I can do. Un­der­stand­ably, when I ar­rive at South Lon­don’s Clapham Com­mon for my first game of mixed touch rugby, I feel se­ri­ously un­der­pre­pared. For­tu­nately the rules are quite sim­ple, with the ob­ject be­ing to score touch­downs and pre­vent your op­po­nent from scor­ing. So far so good. Even I can un­der­stand this, along with the most ob­vi­ous point – that in touch rugby (it is min­i­mal con­tact – the clue is in the name), the ag­gres­sive rugby tackle that sends peo­ple skid­ding along muddy ground is re­placed by a more gen­tle touch, and each team has six touches be­fore they have to give the ball to the other team. Hence why touch rugby (col­lo­qui­ally known as “touch”) was orig­i­nally played by school­child­ren rather than adults, at least un­til the late Sev­en­ties, when the first recog­nised com­pe­ti­tions be­gan to take place in Australia, lead­ing to the for­ma­tion of the Fed­er­a­tion of In­ter­na­tional Touch in 1986. Thirty years on, touch is played in­ter­na­tion­ally by men and women of all ages and skill lev­els. No won­der: the sport has plenty to rec­om­mend it. First, it pro­vides the chance for both sexes to play to­gether, not only on a recre­ational ba­sis, but also at in­ter­na­tional level. Richard Dean is a sports psy­chol­o­gist and men­tal con­di­tion­ing coach who works with touch rugby play­ers. He says: “It’s a cere­bral sport which en­cour­ages team­work and one which has the po­ten­tial to break down bar­ri­ers. It’s

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