London Irish and England Touch have agreed an exciting new partnership.

The mutually beneficial operational and strategic partnership will see Irish provide England Touch with a platform to engage with its participants to promote the Touch format of the game and raise awareness of England Touch and it’s aims, through access to facilities, targeted at both existing and new participants.

In return, England Touch will provide the London Irish community department with greater access to the sport, with staffing resource to support the delivery of Touch, through a jointly-branded delivery programme, aimed at pro-actively promoting participation, health and well-being amongst its participants.

Mat Heeks, Head of Community at London Irish, is excited about seeing the partnership come to life over the coming weeks and months, at a time when participation will continue to play an important role as the nation navigates its way through the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is a really exciting partnership for London Irish and the community team especially," he said.

"Participation is at the heart of everything we do as a department, and it's never been more important than it is now, when participants need sport as their coping mechanism during these tough times we're all facing.

“We’ve been working for a long time with tag rugby in schools, but Touch means that we can expand this into the adult age groups as well.

"We're excited about the delivery of the programmes and bringing Touch rugby to a new demographic at London Irish."

London Irish CEO, Brian Facer, added: “I’ve been impressed by England Touch for a long time.

“Touch is a sport which has been expanding quickly, both in terms of the numbers of people playing and its profile, with both international and domestic tournaments being live streamed on BBC Sport Online.

“We’re always looking for cutting-edge partnerships, and this new agreement with England Touch fulfils that brief perfectly.”

“We’re delighted to be announcing this new partnership with London Irish,” said England Touch Chief Executive, Chris Simon. “It’s exciting to be working with Premiership Rugby clubs and the possibilities on offer; we’re certainly viewing it as open-ended both in terms of scope and time.

“We have a large number of experienced players and coaches in the London area who can support the London Irish community team, while they have the network to help us get more people picking up a ball and running with it. Touch is an ideal way to get more children and adults to try rugby. It’s easy to play and very inclusive, and once they give it a go, we’re convinced many will stay involved for life."

Newly-appointed England Touch National Development Officer, Sammie Phillips, added: “The London Irish partnership is the first in what we hope to be a number of developing relationships across rugby league and rugby union. We believe a more collaborative approach is what is needed to really grow participation in oval-ball sports and we hope this is the first of many more partnerships to come.”

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