England Rugby has now introduced over 15,000 registered players to 02 Touch Rugby. According to the Rugby Football Union (RFU) Director Steve Grainger, the programme has gone from ‘strength to strength’, attracting a new audience. Premiership Player of the Season, Alex Goode, invited The Resident to a session on Clapham Common to find out more…

Words: Madeleine Howell

As an ambassador for 02 Touch, what was it like to achieve the target of 15,000 players?
It’s brilliant. It speaks volumes about what 02 Touch is doing. The more people that are active in any sport – not just touch rugby – the better for everyone. Sport is a wonderful avenue to stop people from getting into too much trouble. I was very lucky to play lots of sports when I was younger and I’d encourage anyone to get involved and just see what they enjoy. You never know – you might find you love it, and if you don’t, then you’ve lost nothing.

Touch is a wonderful game. It’s about conditioning and speed work but also social fitness and having fun. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. It’s a welcoming sport, and any ability can be part of it. You might never have played before, you might have played a hundred times or spent hours and hours on the pitch. Sport, especially rugby, is for all shapes and sizes, and touch rugby even more so. Touch is the closest thing we have to 5-a-side football and to have 15,000 people already is just massive.

What’s special about touch rugby in south west London?
South west London is a real hotbed for rugby. You can see it around the place on evenings like tonight, when there are lots of people out playing sport. On the Common, you can just put a few cones out, put some music on, and see everyone with smiles on their faces, ready to join in and keen to have fun. People aren’t worried about winning or losing too much, they just want to enjoy the outdoors. It goes on all year round – even in winter people want to get outside and keep fit. You can meet people and make new friends, and then go for dinner and drinks afterwards.

What do you love most about rugby?
I’m very lucky to do something that I love. To play rugby with a great group of guys, day in day out, and to have fun with 30 of your mates is a brilliant experience. It’s high-pressure, but the enjoyment factor is there every day. From a young age I always knew that I loved rugby more than any other sport. I’m still friends with the guys I played rugby with when I was seven years old and my mum is still friends with all the parents. I think that says it all about what a special game it is.

How did it feel to be named Premiership Player of the Season this year?
It was just an unbelievable feeling. It’s the ultimate accolade. I was shocked and happily surprised, because I never expected to get an individual award like that. I felt really privileged to be part of a great club like Saracens with great players and coaches who have a lot of trust in me, and who have given me a lot of responsibility by allowing me to go out and play to my strengths.

I was completely taken aback by it. It’s something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. But that said, at the time it was very much about doing the job for Saracens. I was really glad that we managed to achieve everything that we wanted to do as a team.

What have been the other highlights for you so far in your career path?
The first time you put on a white shirt for England is an amazing feeling. England beating New Zealand at home in 2012 was very special. To come away and win the double this year was incredibly special for us, and to win the premiership this season has made it even better.


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