Class crashers: touch rugby
I’m afraid to say that my previous experience of rugby has been horribly sexist. It’s been a sport for my brother to play, my dad to coach and me to simply enjoy from the sidelines. I had a vague understanding of the rules – you can’t pass forward and you can expect to lose some teeth.
So I was pleasantly surprised to find my O2 touch rugby session , at an outdoor sports complex in central London, comprised mainly of women. There was also the assurance of no pain, as tackling and scrums are off limits. We’re kitted out with tracking devices (the same the pros use) to measure our performance, and are thrown straight into warm-ups based on hand-eye coordination. There’s a reason I stick to solo workouts, which becomes apparent when a ball thrown at me from trainer Gareth leaves me cringing, and the ball 12 metres away.
We’re paired up to practise backward passing while running, then stand back-to-back and race to pass the ball 10 times in a circle, overhead then through our legs. This results in a lot of bum-bumping with complete strangers.
Our pair becomes a four as we start to practice defence skills. As the name suggests, a touch from the opposing team means letting go of the ball. You place it behind you for another teammate to pick up, then continue to the try-line. Six touches and the ball turns over, if you haven’t dropped it already – which we always have.
The six-aside game we attempt at the end of the class is mainly characterised by puzzled people running backwards and shouting. The rules on when to touch and when to pass become increasingly entangled, and I start to question whether the effort is getting to me or if the rules of touch rugby really are this complicated. I’m the only one who manages to be knocked to the ground in a spectacular head-on smash with the largest man on the field (who apologises profusely), so bonus points there.
Confusion and bruised ego aside, we’re having a laugh and when we finish (1-nil to my team), I’m amazed that two hours of exercise have gone by. The after-match analysis shows my heart rate was the highest, which indicates either my fitness isn’t up to much, or, as the trainer assured me, I was working the hardest.
While a few more sessions would be needed to nail down the rules, touch rugby is a women-friendly and fun team sport. As we all high-five as we leave, it strikes me that we’ve bonded in a way that only winning, losing and laughing together can achieve – I’ll never find this level of camaraderie on my Pilates bed.
Visit o2touch.co.uk or download the app
Photographs: Tom Miles