A RUGBY club’s ambitions of becoming a communing sporting hub have taken a step forward with the launch of a touch rugby scheme aimed at getting men and women of all ages and abilities playing the game.

Darlington Rugby Football Club has been given £5,000 over three years by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to launch the initiative.

The club will become an O2 Touch Rugby Centre and will offer introductory sessions in the game, which is a simpler version of rugby union with players having to tap their opponent to recover the ball rather than tackling them.

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Sides are also limited to seven or eight players and men and women can play the game together in mixed teams.

Michael Stowe, Darlington RFC director, who is coordinating the club’s touch rugby centre, said: “There is a big drive by the RFU to get more people playing rugby and we’re delighted to be a part of that.

“Men and women of all ages and abilities can get involved. We really want to get the whole community from 16 upwards coming along.

“It’s not just about playing the game. It’s great for fitness and learning new skills too – there’s a great social atmosphere and it’s a real alternative to fitness classes.”

Mr Stowe said the scheme fitted in with the club's ambitions to be a community sporting hub.

Tom Conway, RFU O2 Touch Rugby coordinator, said studies showed two of the main barriers to playing rugby were fear of getting injured and the time it took up get involved in the 15-a-side game.

He added that touch rugby played in small sides during the week removed those barriers.

“The scheme is targeting people who have never played before, who maybe never got the chance as youngsters and think the idea of playing rugby is a bit intimidating. It’s also targeting former players and getting them back involved in the game.

“Darlington is one of the latest clubs coming on board with the scheme and they are going to be a big part of what we’re doing in the region to expand the programme.”

Touch rugby sessions will start on Wednesday, April 2 from 6.30pm until 8am at Blackwell Meadows, the home of Darlington RFC.

The scheme will initially run for ten weeks, with the first three sessions free. There will then be a small charge.

To take part, turn up on the day or email communications@darlingtonrfc.co.uk