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YOUTH SPORT: Minch RFC in focus

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Minchinhampton Junior Touch section was founded in September 2017 as a way of keeping players who didn’t enjoy the transition to contact at Under 9s and girls at under 12s who are not allowed to play mixed gender rugby under RFU rules involved in the game.

It was also seen as a path to provide new blood to the senior touch rugby section which has been playing week in week out since 2004. Minchinhampton was one of the first clubs to spot this niche and their ranks swelled particularly as a lot of siblings who use to stand on the touchlines getting cold gained an opportunity for playing non-contact rugby too.

By 2018 other clubs began to develop their junior touch sections too, particularly in the Midlands and Minchinhampton started to get involved in competitive matches albeit when people were prepared to travel the long distances required to the likes of Pershore, Stratford-on-Avon and Birmingham to get a game.  Minchinhampton enjoyed a two-year run (over sixty games) unbeaten! 

Since then the English Touch Association has really got involved in the development of Junior Touch and the West “Wildcats” region particularly so. Minchinhampton attended their first “Wildcats” Training camp in March 2020 and then we went into lockdown. It was really disappointing that having discovered a path for some clearly talented players everything ground to a halt.

Minchinhampton Junior Touch has continued to play when guidelines have allowed but the lack of travel and fixtures has no doubt limited our opportunity to develop. It was extremely exciting then as restrictions started to ease for 17 players representing U13s and U15s attended a Wildcats selection tournament at Maidenhead RFC on Saturday, May 8. The event was billed to be a 4 teams from each age group event involving Maidenhead, Oxford and Banbury, coached and watched by England Coaches and England West selectors. 

Due to a number of factors, only Minchinhampton fielded 2 full teams. Their opposition turned out to be a “Barbarians squad of Wildcat players from across the other teams. 

This meant Minch gained from exposure to players already playing at a high level and massive exposure to regional selectors and England coaches. They got to play against experienced top-flight opposition, a real learning opportunity. Minchinhampton Junior Touch now has 2 weeks with some clearly identified things to work on and knowing what needs to be done when they attend a full 8+ club tournament at Gosford All Blacks RFC near Oxford on May 29 in front of the regional selectors.

Adrian Danks Junior Touch Coach, said: “It’s fantastic that we have a path for our players to the National Championships at the end of August and even the World cup 2023 for what will be U18 and U15 squads by then. l gave the squad a well-earned Sunday off and will be ready to train again next Sunday. I had a chat with the selectors and England guys at the end and they were really complimentary about the Minch team, their approach, and the skills of the individual players. Whether we have players selected in the end or not, we have put Minch on the England Touch map and I know we will be even better at the end of May in Oxford.”

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