The main aim of new SRU initiative Tartan Touch is to attract newcomers to the sport of rugby but it also hopes to get some lapsed players back in the groove and it managed that yesterday in the shape of two former Scotland captains.
Scottish Rugby ambassadors Chris Paterson and Al Kellock were back strutting their stuff on the BT Murrayfield back pitches at the official launch of Tartan Touch, a new non-contact form of the game that places the emphasis on fun, fitness and socialising.
With no referees, eight simple rules (which are explained at tartantouch.org) and the chance for mixed teams of all ages and abilities to take part together, the sessions are available to play at 20 Tartan Touch hubs across Scotland, where two ambassadors will host regular sessions throughout the summer months with the help of volunteers.
After the rigours of a long, distinguished career which saw him win a record 109 Scotland caps, Paterson was more than happy to get back to basics yesterday.
“I said five years ago when I retired I’d never play a full game of rugby again and I haven’t. But any time I get the chance for a game of touch is great,” he said.
“That wee competitive streak comes back a bit and the desire to help out your team. It’s good fun.
“As a vehicle for opening doors to get new people into the sport and get the benefits, it’s brilliant.
“I love how it’s so inclusive. Some games of touch can get really quite competitive but this is so fun and enjoyable. And it opens the doors of rugby clubs to the community at large.”
It may all be about driving interest in rugby but the general public health benefits are obvious, with sessions structured to coordinate with the demands of modern lifestyles and provide flexibility.
“You can put as much effort as you want into it,” added Paterson.
“You could go for a run on your own but with this you get the health benefits but also with a bit of team spirit and camaraderie thrown in. It ticks all these boxes.
“It’s for newcomers but also maybe people who have played rugby in the past and now the top end or serious playing is no longer for them. It’s still the same game, just in a simple, fun format.”
Clubs across Scotland were contacted to bid for a chance to host Tartan Touch for the 2017/18 season, with clubs selected through their applications.
In the West, Hamilton, Annan, Stewartry, Ardrossan and Biggar will be set up as Tartan Touch hubs, while Kelso, Melrose, Gala, Preston Lodge and Peebles will service the Borders and East Lothian.
Stirling County, Aberdeenshire, Deeside, Perthshire and Moray have been selected as hubs in the Caledonia region with Lismore, Currie, Penicuik, Linlithgow and Leith covering the central belt of Edinburgh, Midlothian and West Lothian.
Kellock, who won 56 Scotland caps and led Glasgow to the 2015 Guinness Pro12 title, added: “If you are looking for a fun and simple way to make new friends, then Tartan Touch is the perfect opportunity.
“Even if you have never played rugby before, the eight simple rules will have you playing in no time.
“Rugby is the best sport in the world, it brings people together and keeps them active and it really is a game for everyone.”
l For more information about Tartan Touch, please visit tartantouch.org and @Tartan_Touch for the latest updates. Each Tartan Touch session costs £3 with a £20 summer pass currently on offer for a limited time.