Out of left field: Trinity Touch Rugby

A closer look at one of Trinity’s newest societies

Rugby in Ireland has never been bigger. With domestic and national teams excelling at every level, it is almost impossible not to get caught up in the swell of excitement. However, one of the major objections people have when it comes to playing rugby is that it is too dangerous. They are duly concerned about the risk of injury from tackles and rucks, not to mention the amount of head injuries and concussions that are unfortunately rampant in the sport. However, there are plenty of ways for people to enjoy rugby without having to worry about big collisions.

Providing one such option is Trinity’s Touch Rugby society. Only in its first year, Touch Rugby in Trinity is giving people the chance to play risk free rugby with groups of friends. With no previous rugby knowledge or skill required, the society is thriving having already brought in 200 members. So, what is touch rugby and how does it differ from traditional rugby union? Firstly, there are fewer players per team. In touch rugby, teams are made up of 14 players total, with six being on the pitch at any one time. If a player is touched while holding the ball, they must stop and roll the ball between their legs. After six touches against one team, the ball is turned over. Infringements of the rules result in a penalty which takes the form of a tap-and-go. 

Touch at entry level is easily understandable and enjoyable for all ages and fitness levels.”

In theory, this is rugby condensed to its most entertaining form. Touch rugby also should not be confused with tag rugby, which uses physical tags, though the rules may appear superficially similar. Explaining the difference, James Pearson Evans, one of the founders of Trinity Touch Rugby, says: “Touch and tag are very different sports with varying rules. The end result is that there is a massive difference in speed. Tag is a start stop game while touch is a fluid, continuous sport.” In theory, this is rugby condensed to its most entertaining form. The All Blacks have achieved mythical status for their incredible ability to play a running game, going from one end of the pitch to the other without ever slowing down. It is this running style of play that attracts people to watch them, whether they are from New Zealand or not.  

Touch at entry level is easily understandable and enjoyable for all ages and fitness levels. The lack of contact and, as a result, lack of scrums, rucks and tackling also removes a lot of the complicated rules of rugby that often keep people on the periphery of the sport. Touch rugby appeals to the masses because it is arguably rugby at its most simple. Pearson Evans believes that is one of the best parts of the sport: “Touch at entry level is easily understandable and enjoyable for all ages and fitness levels,” he said. “Though the high level games can require game knowledge and intelligence, fitness, and near constant physical and mental adaptation”.

Touch rugby has really exploded in Ireland in the last number of years. Since Pearson Evans started playing in 2015, touch players in Ireland have increased four times over from 300 to 1,200, along with the creation of eight new clubs. Trinity’s society is only in its infancy, but the sport is proving to be incredibly popular. One of the most appealing factors is the fact that teams can be, and often are, mixed. This is yet another way in which touch rugby is an accessible sport, as people can join with their friends and play on the same team. Not only are mixed teams an option but according to Pearson Evans, they are encouraged: “Currently at Trinity Touch we are only fielding a mixed team. There is the opportunity, in the future, to have an all-female, or an all-male team. Though the largest proportion, and the best games internationally come from mixed teams.”

“In theory, this is rugby condensed to its most entertaining form”

Trinity’s Touch Rugby society may be quite small at the moment but there is certainly interest in the game around campus. In April, TCD Law Society ran an all-day Touch Rugby tournament at College Park to raise money for Jigsaw, one of Ireland’s leading organisations for helping young people with mental health issues. The competition saw more than 70 people take part as the teams battled it out for glory and a much needed break from the stress of impending exams. The event was such a success that it would be no surprise to see similar events take place next year.

Not only is touch rugby a brilliant source of fitness and friendship, there is always a chance of coming face to face with rugby’s elite. During his time playing touch outside of Trinity, Pearson Evans has played matches against former Ireland internationals Isaac Boss and Jared Payne, as well as former All Black and Ulster player, Charles Piutau. While some players were making appearances at events, it is not uncommon for professional rugby union players to play some touch as they rehab an injury. No plans as of yet for honorary Trinity degree holder Brian O’Driscoll to dust off his boots, but stranger things have happened.

If you’re interested in joining Trinity’s Touch Rugby society, reach out to them through their Facebook page or find them at their stand during Freshers’ Week. They will also have drop in games at 5pm on Tuesday and Thursday of Freshers’ Week.

Out of Left Field is a new, recurring segment for the Sports section at Trinity News. We are hoping to shine a light on some of Trinity’s smaller sporting societies, highlighting the diverse and interesting make up of sport in Trinity. If you are a member of a small sporting society, please contact the Sports section by emailing us at [email protected]

Conor Doyle

Conor Doyle is the current Sport Editor of Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister Law student.