March 1, 2022, by Habbi Liton

Introducing IMS Touch Rugby

At the start of the 2021/22 academic year, University of Nottingham Women’s Rugby Club President, Natasha Duggan, set-up the Intramural Sports (IMS) Touch Rugby programme. Natasha, who is also one of the first ever recipients of the Martin Wynne-Jones Bursary and  supporter of the Rugby Minds campaign, is an ever-present face at the Sunday Touch Rugby sessions held at David Ross Sports Village, and we caught up with her afterwards to find out why she set up the programme, as well as plans for the future.

For those who might know about the sport, what is Touch Rugby?

Touch rugby is basically the non-contact version of Rugby! It’s perfect for injured rugby players that can’t take part in contact anymore or for new players that want to learn rugby! But, like all IMS sports, Touch Rugby is for everyone!! It’s a mixed sport, so both women and men play together, where there are only six players per team on the pitch at any time. There are also replacements/subs, as there’s a lot of running involved so you’d definitely want to sub-off at some point.

The rules of touch rugby are similar to rugby league, where there are six phases, so the team in possession has a set of six touches in which to score a try. If they do not score after six touches, a turnover is given to the opposition. Touch Rugby definitely shouldn’t be confused with union or league rules, however, there are a lot of technical skills that are specific to Touch and make it such a fun and different sport!

Why did you set-up the IMS Touch Rugby programme?

The selfish reason is, I want more women in Rugby! The sport is growing so rapidly at the moment and the women’s union club currently have over 100 members with 2 teams in BUCS and a development team! However, it’s not easy for everyone to commit to the level our members do and it’s normal for girls to be quite scared of the contact part of rugby initially. So, I envisioned a touch rugby programme to provide a new transition into women’s rugby for many.

Another reason is Touch Rugby is a perfect IMS option for individuals who already play competitively in Rugby or other sports to have a run-around in a fun, less-stressful environment than a competitive uni fixture. So, for example, we have Athletics that brings 2 teams to play each Sunday.

The last reason, is Touch is a mixed sport, so it’s a great way to unite men and women in sport together!

How has the programme developed over the past year?

Honestly, it has really surprised me how successful the programme has been. I managed to start the league with 12 teams, which is quite impressive for a new IMS sport. With one team dropping out in the first term, I had my brief worries about the league’s longevity. But, new teams appeared from the popularity of the sport and we now have 2 teams formed from friendship groups, called “Barbarians” and “Wollaton Warriors”. New teams and individuals are still welcome to join now!

An interesting development in the programme has been seeing the improvements in quality. Touch is a new sport to most people at UoN! Players often result to “union” ways of playing, which doesn’t necessarily help in Touch. At the beginning of this university term, I invited coaches from Nottingham Touch to come and run some drills with the teams and provide a bit of coaching to improve their skills. Now, we’re seeing some really talented Touch Rugby players!

Have there been any challenges to setting this programme up?

Yes, of course, setting up something like this definitely doesn’t come without its challenges. Like other IMS execs, we run into issues with communication, the team’s struggling to provide sufficient numbers, or enough girls… But, the captains this year have been really great and we’re all understanding that this is a new sport that will inevitably run into its unique challenges. We also have a group of student refs that come down to ref the games. The challenge there is, making sure the refs are well brushed-up on the rules and gain respect from players on the pitch.

What have you enjoyed most about leading on this project? 

I most enjoy meeting and chatting with people that come each week. IMS Touch always has a nice and friendly environment and it’s a great way to finish a long week on a Sunday evening. Obviously, the satisfaction of seeing so many people enjoying the programme I set up is a great feeling!

There are 3 people that have helped and supported me greatly… That being Marcus Briggs and Joe Cantle (the IMS Rugby execs) and Kate Davis-Bavin, a fellow rugby teammate and ex-England Touch Rugby player. I couldn’t have done it without them, they’ve helped the programme run smoothly and made the experience more enjoyable.

I’d just like to thank everyone that’s been so supportive over the last few months. I’m very grateful to everyone that’s recognized my hard work and to everyone that comes along to play touch on a Sunday. I’d love to see even more of you there!

What do you see as the future of Touch Rugby?

We’ve just concluded the first-ever IMS Touch Rugby league last week and this week we’ll commence the second league of the year and will be holding more open-training sessions for those wanting to improve their skills and play more competitively.

In the far future, I’d love to see the IMS Touch Rugby programme continue and grow over the next few years! I hope the sport gains more recognition and more people decide to take part. It’s my last year of university this year so I hope whoever takes over the programme does a great job at continuing its success. In terms of more-competitive Touch Rugby at UoN… We’re hoping to select an “All-stars” team within the next month and play some friendly fixtures against other university teams! There is great potential for a university team (or two)!! Whether or not Touch Rugby develops into a BUCS sport will be the next interesting development… we’ll see!

How can someone get involved?

To get involved, please follow and drop a message on the Touch Rugby Facebook page.

The programme runs as an IMS sport. Fixtures are played every Sunday evening from 6:30-8 pm on the David Ross 3G. Teams are formed from societies and sports and you can join any team you wish!

There’s still time to join an existing team or start your own team!

We thank Natasha for her time and wish her and the Touch Rugby programme the best of luck at the University of Nottingham – we’re excited to see how the programme develops!

Posted in IMSVolunteering