Rugby clubs across Scotland have bolstered their squads and generated £14,000 in the process thanks to a Scottish Rugby initiative to get new players of all ages involved in the sport.
‘Tartan Touch’ was launched in 20 hubs across Scotland earlier this year and saw 1,800 players aged between seven and 75 years old taking part.
More than 70 per cent of participants had not regularly been involved in playing rugby and around a fifth of all players were newcomers to the sport.
A third of players taking part were female and just over half took on Tartan Touch as a relaxed and enjoyable way to add to their other sports, including judo, cheerleading and even professional cycling.
Funds raised came from participating players, who paid £3 per session or £20 for a 10 week pass. All money from Tartan Touch will be invested back into the 20 clubs involved as far afield as Elgin and Annan.
Gary Coupland, Tartan Touch Ambassador at Annan RFC, said: “Tartan Touch helped us pick up two or three new players for our senior teams and introduced a number of people to what the club had to offer.
“We have certainly seen a significant increase in numbers at pre-season training, compared to recent years, which, if it’s maintained, should hopefully benefit the club as we start the new season.”
Tartan Touch provides a simplified version of rugby with the aim of attracting players of all abilities who are looking to improve their fitness through simple and social activity.
The hubs provided sessions for people discovering rugby for the first time or who have previous experience of the sport with the aim of bringing people together to enjoy its benefits.
Feedback to Scottish Rugby on the success of Tartan Touch was incredibly positive, with more than 94 per cent of respondents rating the sessions as four stars or above – the vast majority of those being perfect scores.
Nick Rennie, Head of Club Services at Scottish Rugby, said: “Getting more people involved in rugby in a way that suits them is fantastic news.
“We aimed to make Tartan Touch simple, social rugby so it’s great to see such a range of people enjoying the game and getting a bit of exercise in a relaxed and fun setting.
“It’s important that players at all levels have opportunities to play, whatever their ability and routine, and we’ve seen from the numbers involved that it is a great way of adding to the rugby on offer in Scotland.”
In the West, Hamilton, Annan, Stewartry, Ardrossan and Biggar were selected to be Tartan Touch hubs, while Kelso, Melrose, Gala, Preston Lodge and Peebles serviced the Borders and East Lothian.
Stirling County, Aberdeenshire, Deeside, Perthshire and Moray were selected as hubs in the Caledonia region with Lismore, Currie, Penicuik, Linlithgow and Leith covering the central belt of Edinburgh, Midlothian and West Lothian.
Tartan Touch will now be rolled out within universities and colleges across the country to increase participation in student rugby.
Applications for clubs to host Tartan Touch for the 2018/19 summer season will be open in November, where 30 hubs will be selected.
For more information about Tartan Touch, please visit tartantouch.org and @Tartan_Touch for the latest updates.