Thursday, February 25, 2010

Korea Touch gets good publicity again

Touch rugby ready for new season

Spring is in the air and for a bunch of expats and locals that means one thing -- touch rugby.

Enthusiasts have their first run-around on Feb. 27.

Natalie Hallemans says the strength of the sport in Seoul is its consistency. "Various sports leagues come and go, but touch is always on, baring the weather, every Saturday from March to November it's here."

The sport that was set up by a small group of expats four years ago continues to thrive and each year the player pool expands.

The head of the Korea Touch Association, Shane Lowndes, said organizers are looking to have about seven tournaments around the country this year. "We are going out to Incheon for the first time because of a growth of interest out there. We will also head down to Gumi at some point, which has become one of the most popular events on the touch rugby calendar," he says.

The majority of touch is played in Seoul by expats and a growing number of Koreans, but most Saturdays around the peninsula, small numbers of enthusiasts are keeping the sport alive in their own regions -- even as far away as Ulsan, in the south.

Natalie Hallemans says she's made lifelong friends through the sport. "It's a great way to meet people. I would encourage teachers, business people, anyone who's looking to socialize with other foreigners, to come along on a Saturday. We're very welcoming and you don't have to be part of an already established team."

Team's come together for the tournaments about every six weeks. The Three Alley Dutch Rudders, an all men's team, have dominated the season's standings for the past two years. Wade Broderick, 28, hinted recently that they may invite some female players onto their side. That could be good news for the Survivors, who typically run as second-best to the Rudders, but Broderick says no one should underestimate the quality of the experienced women players.

Broderick said it also makes sense in lieu of the international touch tournament in Seoul later in the year. "The trend we are seeing at all the international tournaments we go to is that generally the mixed competition is the strongest, and the teams always seem to have a lot of fun too. If we enter a mixed team at ITS this year, we'll have gelled together already," he explains.

Shane Lowndes said they've already secured the venue for ITS at the Korea Military Academy, in Taerung. And teams from Japan, China, and Hong Kong are confirmed for the September event.

The Korea Touch Association is also keen to see the sport grow among Koreans. The Han River Pirates, a group of local junior players, will continue their involvement this year and Lowndes said the KTA can help facilitate other groups that want to try the sport. For those who would like to know more about touch rugby head to Jamwon Rugby pitch in Apgujeong, Seoul on Saturdays at 10 a.m.

For more information, check out the website or e-mail

Living in Incheon and want to play touch on the weekend, but can't get into Seoul? E-mail

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By Bridget Tunnicliffe

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