Where the game of Tag Rugby Started
About Nick Leonard
Nick Leonard was appointed as Devon’s first Rugby Football Union Youth Development officer in 1990. Whilst in this role, he pioneered the game of Tag Rugby as a means of introducing youngsters to rugby. He has now returned to his profession as a teacher of physical education and is currently teaching in a High School in Exeter. Nick has now produced a manual titled ‘A Complete Guide to Tag Rugby’ which has been written using his years of experience of teaching and coaching players of both sexes, at all ages and abilities. Nick has also used his knowledge he gained as a player, where he played for several years at National League Level and also played representative rugby for his county and the South West Division. His Hobbies include most sports, keeping fit, DIY and spending time with his wife Sally and daughter Katy
How Nick developed Tag Rugby
“ I felt that touch rugby was not the game for a typical primary school situation. If I was going to be successful in introducing rugby to this age group, then I needed to find a version of the game that was safe and more importantly, seen to be safe by players, teachers and above all parents…. a game where lots of tries were being scored…. a game that clearly showed a “tackle”….. a game that showed correct lines of running….a game that was enjoyable and could be played by mixed groups.
I was discussing these problems with a group of team mates whilst at my local rugby club when I heard a voice behind me say. Why don’t you try these? We used them when I was overseas with the navy and hard grounds made it too dangerous for proper tackling. The voice came from the appropriately named Barry John, a local referee, who then showed me two pieces of cord.
I knew straight away that the concept of playing rugby with tags was just the magic formula I was looking for. However, the rules were too complicated and the players found ways to cheat by tucking the cord too deeply into their shorts. Even those being honest often lost their tags unknowingly as they dropped out when they ran.
I went away feeling rather despondent. It was shortly after this that I was introduced to Velcro tags by a South African called Robert Macdonald, who was a student at Oxford University. He explained they were being used in America to play a non-contact version of American Football and recognised the use they could have for rugby. These coloured tags were ideal and I knew then that with the right set of rules they would overcome all the difficulties I had experienced with the youngsters playing touch rugby. They were I knew the way forward for introducing rugby to primary schools in Devon.
In June of 1991, I organised the first ever Primary Schools Tag Rugby Festival that attracted 8 schools. The following year 20 schools participated and now over 250 primary schools in Devon annually compete in mixed Tag Rugby Festivals. The game now has become popular across the whole of the UK and has been recognised by the Rugby Football Union as the “Game of the Millenium”- an ideal non-contact version of rugby for boys and girls of all ages and abilities. It is increasingly being played as a trainging / recreational game for adults.”
Extracts from “A Complete Guide to Tag Rugby” by Nick Leonard.