The DASSA Primary Schools touch rugby series got underway last week with 16 under-9 teams from Dubai taking to the field at Kings’ Nad Al Sheba in the second annual tournament.
It was the first week of a nine-week series, which will see teams from three categories compete in a round-robin format with the top teams advancing to the finals in March.
In addition to the under-9 mixed category, there are also competitions for under-11 boys, and under-11 girls.
Jill Oliver is the event’s chief organiser and Leader of PE and Sport at Kings' Nad Al Sheba. Oliver is also Head of Primary Sports at DASSA and believes the event is a great introduction to rugby for Dubai's youngsters.
She said the aims of the series were “to develop Touch Rugby within the Emirate and provide opportunities to play competitively at school level.”
“The tournament aims to introduce the game to new players and further develop more experienced children by providing them with competitive opportunities.”
Oliver says the sport has been well received by schools and students alike, and sees a bright future ahead with the number of teams increasing this year.
“The number of schools involved in the programme has grown significantly since it's conception last year. In 2016 there were 14 schools and this year we have 23 schools – with over 50 teams playing across U9, U11 mixed and U11 girls only leagues.”
The touch rugby series has been given a lot of support from Middle East Touch, and Oliver was full of praise for their assistance.
“I have worked alongside director John Larkin for over four years to increase opportunities to play touch in Abu Dhabi and now Dubai. Middle East Touch provide coaching to schools and support many initiatives to grow the game, such as the Dubai Primary School Sports Leagues.”
Many of the children who compete in the touch series will go on to play the full-contact code of the sport later in their school sport careers, and Oliver believes the DASSA Primary Series can act as great preparation for the transition to full-contact rugby.
“Touch is a game in its own right, but it also develops essential fundamental skills that allow a smooth transition into contact rugby should children wish to do so.
“Some schools use touch as a prerequisite before pushing children through into their contact teams as they get older. For all schools, touch allows beginners to step into rugby and experience it for the first time due to the non-contact element.”
The DASSA Primary Schools Touch Series continues this Monday with the first round of fixtures in the U11 girls tournament!