Touch rugby was developed by Australian rugby league players in the 50’s and 60’s as a safer training variant, but exists today as a sport in its own right. In 1968 the first official touch tournaments took place in Sydney, Australia. The first national championships took place in 1980, shortly after the Australian touch federation was founded. Since then, the sport has enjoyed the highest growth rates. Whether man, woman, senior or child, touch rugby quickly became a thrilling sport for people of all walks of life.
It wasn’t long before New Zealand was infected by it’s neighbours touch enthusiasm. In 1983 the very first international tournament was held between NZ and Australia and these two nations continue to battle it out head to head in the “Trans-Tasman” championships to this day. With today’s technology, this high level tournament can be tracked online, exposing what great things this sport has to offer.
Many Asian and Pacific nations also quickly caught on to this new sport. Nowadays countries like Fiji, Thailand and Pakistan all enjoy playing this fun non-contact rugby variety, and Japan is currently one of the top ranked Touch Rugby nations!
In Europe the British Isles are leading the development of Touch rugby, resulting in thousands of passionate players in England, Scotland, Wales, Jersey and Guernsey, and also in Ireland.
On the European mainland countries like Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain are well on the way to becoming Touch enthusiasts. This in turn is influencing the foundation of further touch clubs in neighbouring countries such as Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and, most recently, in Sweden.
To date more than 50 countries are registered with the ‘Federation of International Touch’, also known as FIT, which was founded in 1985. In 1988 the FIT organised the first world championship, with Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Canada competing for the title of world champion. Since 1991, the World Cup has been held regularly every four years. There have also been European Championships since 2002, the first one being held in Cardiff, Wales. Since then, the European Championships ("Euros") have been carried out every two years. Germany has been competing on the international stage since 2004, most recently on the island of Jersey, where a Men’s and a Women’s Open team took part in the European Championship.
And what does the future look like? With touch having one of the greatest growth potentials in Asia as well as Europe, the future of touch is looking incredibly bright, with more and more countries becoming keen members of this great community.
In Germany the sport is growing more and more popular. Currently there are teams in Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Essen, Frankfurt, Heidelberg and Munich, and every year at the end of the season, these teams face off at the German Championship.