FIVE Welsh sporting legends and the leader of the Wales Commonwealth Games Squad are the new patrons of Wales Touch.
Former Wales rugby stars Shane Williams, Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Davies and Tom Shanklin will be lending their support to the growing sport along with Olympic athlete Jamie Baulch and Non Evans, who has represented Wales at rugby, judo, wrestling and weightlifting.
Professor Nicola Phillips, recently announced as Wales’ chef de mission for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia and currently supporting former Wales rugby union international Richard Parks’ latest expedition to Everest, is also on board.
All patrons have played or been involved with t ouch rugby and are big fans of the game. So much so that former Welsh rugby union international and Ospreys wing Shane Williams is tempted to come out of retirement to play again for the Wales Touch side.
He said: “Touch rugby was always an important part of my training and rugby growing up and I don’t think we see enough people playing it in the northern hemisphere.
“I used to play a lot of touch as a warm up for Wales and the Ospreys and it’s such a great sport. Anyone can play it, it’s for men, women and children, it’s not physical and it doesn’t matter what standard of rugby you are, you can all play together.
“I love the game and as patron I really want to get involved both on and off the field, so may be dusting my boots off as time goes on.”
Touch is a fast, six-a-side, noncontact sport that can be played by men and women of all ages from juniors to veterans, including uniquely mixed teams of men and women. There are five regions currently run by Wales Touch Association, which have individual clubs and leagues;
- Cyclones and Warriors (Cardiff, Caerphilly, Merthyr, Rhondda, south Powys and Vale of Glamorgan)
- Rangers (Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flint, Gwynedd, north Powys and Wrexham)
- Rebels (Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea)
- Red Kites (Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion)
- Titans (Monmouth, Newport, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent)
It is a good way to stay fit and is particularly popular with rugby union and league players to keep fitness and skills levels up in the summer months. It’s also ideal for total novices and can be played by anyone.
Patron and former Wales and Cardiff Blues outside centre, Tom Shanklin, said: “Touch is incredible and I used to play it loads to warm up, develop my skills, keep fit and have fun. It’s based on the basic principles of rugby, it’s all about creating space, attacking, catching, passing, handling and agility but without the physicality of tackling.
“I love that it’s a mixed sport that can be played by all ages, shapes and abilities and I would encourage everyone to give it a go, it’s just a top sport.”
Former Wales rugby union and league star and broadcaster Jonathan Davies believes that playing touch rugby at a young age, like they do in the southern hemisphere, has a big impact on improving rugby players’ core skills.
He said: “If you look at players in the Southern and North hemisphere it’s like European and British football. They look comfortable on the ball, they try things they wouldn’t normally do, it’s just in their nature and that’s because they play Touch.
“It’s about assessing situations, looking for opportunities and space, and having the core skills to finish it off. That’s what the difference was between Australia and New Zealand in the World Cup and it’s down to playing Touch from a young age.”
Wales has a good standing in Touch and are currently European Champions in the over 40s and junior categories.
Wales Touch Association Managing Director John Francis said : “We are delighted to have secured the support and enthusiasm of six such great patrons.
“Their profile and genuine love for the game will help us to encourage more people to get involved with Wales Touch Association.
“Clubs across Wales are always on the look out for new players and I would encourage anyone interested in sport to get involved. It’s a fun to way meet new people, develop new skills and even play for your country.”