Rugby Footprint Grows with USA Touch’s Participation in 2018 Youth Touch World Cup

Exposure of young athletes to simplified international competition furthers the reach of the traditional rugby model

LAFAYETTE, CO. - USA Touch, as an official development partner for USA Rugby, is set to participate in the 2018 Youth Touch World Cup this August 8-11. Taking place in Malaysia, the organization seeks to increase its exposure to young athletes, helping build a foundation for participation in traditional rugby through elite, international competition. As an influential resource in introducing new players to a simplified level of rugby, USA Touch -- and its presence in the Junior World Cup -- serves as an important piece of the USA Rugby National Team development pathway.

"Touch is not only a fun, fast and engaging sport for all but also helps to deliver key rugby skills from evasion to support and defensive positioning to game management," says JD Stephenson, USA Touch's General Manager for High Performance who simultaneously serves as National High Performance Development Manager for USA Rugby. "Touch and rugby will benefit from each other and we're hopeful that we can continue the thriving relationship between USA Touch and USA Rugby."

With the senior Touch World Cup commencing in April of 2019, months ahead of  Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, young American athletes have a built-in  trajectory to showcase their abilities on the world stage. And, more significantly, with the return of the Olympic Games to the United States in 2028, increased familiarity and participation in rugby only supports the growth of the olympic and national player pools.

"Touch players from all over the world are now playing Super Rugby in the south and crossover athletes are seen all over the sevens circuit," said OJ Hawea, President of USA Touch. "Our goal from the outset has always been to work with USA Rugby to build the awareness and availability of the sport across any code there might be - the synergies are too close to be ignored allowing us both to benefit from mutual development."

Since the announcement of USA Touch as an official game development partner, the organization has used its sport model to connect future athletes with traditional rugby while helping existing athletes polish their fundamental knowledge of the game. As a part of the USA Rugby player pathway, participation in the 2018 Youth Touch World Cup increases both exposure to international rugby competition and the American presence in the sport.

As USA Touch looks ahead to successful U.S. hosted rugby events -- including the recent Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco -- and  beyond to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games, chances to increase the rugby footprint at all levels reaches a forefront.

With this in mind and as a support to USA Rugby, the organization evaluates its own chances of hosting a World Cup in 2023. In order to do so, USA Touch will seek strong representation at this year's Junior World Cup, acknowledging the implications it might provide for a youth World Cup in the coming years. Though nothing is set in stone, opportunities are on the horizon for both USA Touch and rugby as a sport overall.

USA TOUCH GIRLS U18 ROSTER | 2018 YOUTH TOUCH WORLD CUP

Name Club
Ashley Brownsberger Los Angeles Royals
Bethany Bergholm Portland Hunters
Brooke McConaghy Tin Hill Royal Touch
Ella Wessel Tin Hill Royal Touch
Jazmin Zage Tanglin Rugby Club
Karissa Postula Portland Hunters
Kiana Miller San Francisco Touch
Kyah Watters NWS Hornets
Mya Heiss Cayman Touch
Ria Plunket Cayman Touch
Ruby Long Portland Hunters
Skylar Smith Cayman Touch
Sonja Wessel Singapore American School
Sophia Olson San Mateo

USA TOUCH BOYS U18 ROSTER | 2018 YOUTH TOUCH WORLD CUP

Name Club
Adam Lundgreen Red Mountain Youth Rugby
Doug Rowland Cayman Touch
Garreth Evans Portland Mavericks
Jaden Muurray Portland Mavericks
Jonah Wahlberg Phoenix Rise
Junior Waqavesi CK McClatchy Rugby
Kendal Murray Portland Mavericks
Kyle Lazera Jupiter Sharks Rugby
Lewis Gray Jupiter Sharks Rugby
Macon Jones San Francisco Touch
O'Shea Settle Genesis Rugby Club
Richard MacDonald Phoenix Rise
Ruairi Dwyer Life West
Thomas Belz-Lopes Portland Hunters
Tommy Kehoe Cayman Touch

USA TOUCH STAFF | 2018 YOUTH TOUCH WORLD CUP

Name Role Affiliation
Nathan Murray Boys Head Coach Portland Mavericks
Molly Luft Girls Head Coach Portland Hunters
Mick Kehoe Boys Manager Cayman Touch
Jean Miller Girls Manager San Francisco Touch
Kaitlin Sigado Youth Development Coordinator USA Touch
Justin Goonan Head of Athlete Performance USA Touch
PJ Rovinelli Recovery Specialist USA Touch
Jason Andrus Media Specialist USA Touch
David Parker Men's 30's Head Coach USA Touch
OJ Hawea Men's Program Director USA Touch
JD Stephenson HP Development Manager USA Rugby