For the first time ever, the United States is sending a women’s team to the “touch rugby” world championships.
UO club rugby player and Eugene resident Erika Farias is one of the women who will represent the nation at the Federation of International Touch’s 8th annual World Cup in Coffs Harbour, Australia. In the past, the U.S. has sent only men’s and mixed teams to the world championship.
From April 29 until May 3, Farias will compete among 99 teams from 25 different nations — including 16 women’s teams from Singapore, China, Japan, Fiji, Niue, Scotland, Wales, South Africa and more.
Farias, a member of the 2014 All-American collegiate rugby second team and a rugby collegiate conference All-Star every year since 2011, says touch rugby differs from traditional “union rugby” mainly because players are tagged rather than tackled.
“Touch rugby is a really inclusive sport. It’s all ages, all genders, and it’s a sport like none other,” Farias says. “But not a lot of people know about touch, or know it’s a real sport.”
Each touch rugby team fields only six players per side, rather than the traditional 15. This allows for a faster, more challenging variation of the original sport that focuses less on “brute force” and more on the running aspect of the game.
Farias first discovered touch rugby in 2007 as a sophomore while studying overseas at an immersion high school in Singapore. There, she played junior varsity for one game before getting promoted to the varsity team. She also played for the Pirate Touch Football Club in Singapore.
“A lot of women stop playing sports after high school,” says Farias, who studied women’s and gender studies and sociology at the UO. “I think touch rugby is one of the few solutions — it’s something you can pick up anywhere and play.”
This is not the first rugby-related trip to Australia for Farias, who also was invited to join the under-20 national team for Singapore and compete as a guest in the 2010 National Touch League competition.
Although her team did not perform well in the tournament, she says the competitive experience was invaluable. In the past two years, Farias also helped the Portland Hunters mixed team earn gold and silver medals during national competition in Orlando. Those tournaments helped her prepare for the upcoming competition, she says.
“I believe I am helping drive a movement to advance women in sports to make athletics more accessible for women and girls everywhere,” Farias writes on her GoFundMe page, which she is using to raise money for the trip. To follow the World Cup, visit internationaltouch.org.