Tomorrow sees the first round of games in the 8th biannual European Touch Championships (ETC2012) which are taking place in the Lancenigo Sports Complex, in Treviso, Italy. Wales are the reigning champions and will again be represented in force.
After an excellent showing at the Touch World Cup 2011 (TWC2011) – Wales’ Open teams (men’s, women’s and mixed) finished in the overall fifth position and the senior teams (M30, M35, M40 and Senior Mixed) finished in joint third, confidence is high. Let’s assess Wales’ chances at the Euros this year…
Wales are the reigning overall European champions having won the 2010 competition in Bristol. Wales entered teams in all six 2010 categories and despite only winning one outright title (Mens Over 35s), by reaching the final in five categories, they gained enough points to snatch the overall title from the previous champions, England.
European Touch Championships 2010 – Total Rugby Highlights Video
In 2012, Wales are again hedging their bets by entering all available categories (England is the only other team present to do so) and will be confident of bringing home the title from northern Italy.
So in which categories do Wales pose the biggest threat?
Men’s Over 40 (M40), Ranked 1 : 7
The Mens over 40 (M40) team are ranked number one in the over 40s category and will be favourites to take the title having finished fourth in TWC2011 – the highest placed European team. Ireland and England are their closest rivals and the Wales team will fancy their chances following a 4-2 victory over Ireland and a 3-3 draw against England in TWC2011.
Mixed Open (MXO), Ranked 1 : 13
Wales’ best hope of a medal is the MXO team who are ranked number one and were the highest placed European team in TWC2011. The team feel that the title is theirs to lose and will be going all out to make sure they bring home the spoils. In their quest to do so, they have even recruited a TWC2011 winner in order to realise this aim. Ryan Pollock captained the Australian MXO team to World Cup success last year (picking up the Most Valuable Player in six out of ten games) and has been working closely with his Welsh counterparts in the month leading up to the Euros – no doubt instilling the winning confidence needed to go the whole way in a major tournament. They will need this strength of mind having narrowly lost 7 – 6 to Ireland in 2010 and will be seeking revenge.
Women’s Open (WO), Ranked 2 : 7
Wales Women (WO) are ranked second only behind England so will be confident of making the final and with a fifth placed TWC11 finish (just behind England) there is no reason why they can’t push their arch rivals all the way. England ladies, however, are the reigning champions, having overcome Wales 2-1 in the 2010 final, but there is very little to choose between the teams, as a four-all draw in their TWC2011 game proves. In fact, Wales didn’t lose to European opposition in TWC2011, so the ETC2012 title is there for the taking.
Senior Mixed (SMX), Ranked 2 : 5
Ranked behind number one seeds, England, Wales Senior Mixed team finished TWC2011 in seventh place out of eight, but were still the second highest placed European team. They found the going tough in Edinburgh, only winning one game (against Italy) and losing 7 – 1 to England. However, they will be very confident of reaching the final in Treviso and could surprise favourites England if they meet in the predicted Cup Final clash between the two nations.
Men’s Over 35 (M35), Ranked 2 : 4
The M35 team finished TWC2011 in fourth placed, behind third placed, England. They are ranked second only behind England although they suffered a convincing defeat, 7 – 2 during their last competitive game in TWC2011. They’ll be confident of making the final and are the reigning champions, so they have a very good chance of retaining their title.
Men’s Open (MO), Ranked 3 : 8
The Mens Open (MO) team lost 8 – 3 to Scotland in the 2010 final, but will come back stronger and may fancy their chances, although a ninth place World Cup finish behind their major European rivals, Scotland, England and France, means a tough ask to collect the MO title. Many of the team remain the same and the squad has been training hard in preparation for the Euros. They are seeded third behind Scotland and England so it’s well within their capabilities.
ETC2010 MO Final – Scotland v Wales
Men’s Over 30 (M30), Ranked 3 : 4
The Mens over 30s (M30) also go into the tournament with confidence having had an excellent run in of preparation games – even running the Wales MO team close in a final training game at the Vale Hotel last weekend, losing 7-5 despite being without several strike players. They will be underdogs in ETC2012, seeded third out of four teams and finished in seventh place in TWC2011, but they could be an outside bet for success.
European Touch Champions 2012?
Wales can be very confident of picking up another ETC overall title. In 2010, they did so by reaching five out of the six available finals and only picking up one final victory. In 2012, they should pick up the Mixed Open and M40 titles and have a good chance of making the final in several of the other categories. However, it is England that start the tournament as favourites – ranked number one in four categories and second in two others. They should provide the sternest test for the reigning champions and it is going to be a closely fought battle between the two nations. We wish all the Welsh players, coaches, managers, referees and support staff the best of luck!