The governing bodies of rugby and touch in New Zealand have agreed to work closely together to help the continued growth of both games.
New Zealand Rugby and Touch New Zealand have signed a Memorandum of Understanding which sets out how the two organizations will cooperate on a range of projects in the future.
“We have much in common so it makes good sense for us to identify areas where we can work together for the good of both games,” said Nigel Cass, General Manager Strategic Planning and Relationships at New Zealand Rugby.
Around 150,000 men, women and children play rugby every weekend in winter and many of these also keep their hand in the game over the summer months by playing touch. Touch New Zealand has a registered membership of 85,000.
“We already have rugby clubs running touch competitions and players coming from touch into rugby, even at a high level like the New Zealand Women’s Sevens team so formalising a partnership is a good move.”
Both sports face challenges and the agreement will help tackle some of these said Cass.
“Keeping teenagers in rugby has been a focus for us over recent years and touch lends itself well to allowing players of all abilities to get involved and stay active. Developing gender and ethnic specific competitions that run across both sports could be another way of working together.”
One of the plans involves dedicated game development positions that will look at developing both rugby and touch programmes in secondary schools to ensure the two sports are complementary rather than in competition. That will initially be rolled out in Canterbury and Auckland.
Touch New Zealand Chief Executive Joe Sprangers said close cooperation betweeen the two organisations had a range of benefits.
“There are a number of areas we’ve identified where we can learn from each other and improve our operations. Aligning the registration process is one of these and an obvious first step so that we know our player base better and can improve communications.”
Shared advocacy on behalf of both sports especially in the Auckland area is seen as another benefit.
“Given that the combined national player base of the two sports is well over 200,000, this creates a major voice in the New Zealand sporting landscape.”