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Touch Rugby Elevated to Half Blue

SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1 Touch Rugby club poses with sign reading, "Congrats Touch Rugby Half Blue."

On 16th October 2023, the Oxford University Blues Committee elevated Touch Rugby to Half Blue status! The Blue is the highest honour granted to individual sportspeople and is a highly sought-after achievement for Oxford student-athletes. The motion for status change passed with resounding approval, totalling 60 votes in favour.

This achievement continues a critical year for the Oxford University Touch Rugby Club. The University’s Sports Federation recognised the sport with full club status in June 2023. So far, in the 2023-2024 season, they recruited an elite coach, doubled their membership, expanded their high performance offering, partnered with the This Girl Can campaign, engaged with England’s national teams, introduced a performance psychology element, elected a welfare position, and bolstered partnerships with the University and college rugby football clubs.

The club’s president, Aryemis Brown, said of this achievement, ‘We are very grateful to the Blues Committee for this important honour. This award recognises our sport’s rich past and bright future.’ He continued, ‘I hope the accomplished athletes in the room found our portrait of a teammate values – competitive excellence, joy of sport, kindness, belonging, and team spirit – as a compelling reason to entrust our sport with this status. I committed to them that our teammates will not only uphold but contribute to our University’s tradition of excellence…and, of course, beat Cambridge.’

Aryemis thanked the Oxford University Rugby Football Club (OURFC) for their strong partnership. ‘Little do people know,’ he said, ‘Touch Rugby began at Oxford following a grant to the University after the 2003 Rugby World Cup. We are very proud of our heritage in OURFC Touch.’ OURFC continues to provide intercollege Touch Rugby competitions throughout the year, in no small part due to committed leadership of Simon Brown, the college rugby administrator. ‘It is an essential student experience to expand participation and development in sport,’ Aryemis noted. He also acknowledged the Blues Committee president and Sports Council chair, Thomas Renshaw; Jack Harris, England Touch’s University Manager; the Oxford Touch Club; and the University’s Sports Federation.

Much of the Touch Rugby club’s recent success builds on the wider progress of the sport. In 2022, the British Universities and Colleges Sport included Touch Rugby in its calendar. Shortly after, in May 2023, the Federation of International Touch awarded England “tier one” nation status, recognising their self-sufficiency, attendance at World Cups, sound administration and large player base. Most recently, in October 2023, Touch Rugby received recognition from Sport England as its own code of rugby.

With their elevated status, the Touch Rugby club have appointed three voting members to the Oxford University Blues Committee: the club’s president, Aryemis Brown; its vice-president, Ava McCarthy Kerrigan; and its head coach, Augustine McMahon. They will award the inaugural class of the sport’s Blues next year. Their status will come up for review in October 2026.

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