The Untouchaballs – touch rugby

Following the marvellous performance of Portugal at the Rugby World Cup, popularity for the sport in the country is at an all-time high. The men’s team are up to number 13 in the world rankings, while the women’s side are taking huge strides forward, winning seven of their last eight games. Justifiably riding on the success of the fifteen-a-side version is touch rugby, a sport that is also growing exponentially.

For those not in the know, touch rugby is a minimal-contact version of the full game of rugby. It follows similar principles but with only six players on the pitch from each side at any one time. Matches comprise two twenty-minute halves with just a brief interval. As the name suggests, tackles are replaced by touches, meaning that the sport is far more accessible for all ages, shapes and sizes. 

Here in the Algarve, touch rugby is also beginning to take off. Phil Soames is a member of The Untouchaballs in Lagos and he is beginning to see a lot of progress being made. “We have had loads of people wanting to play touch rugby over the last two years. And now we have just become federated as part of the Algarve University in Faro, which enables us to play in tournaments.”

Indeed, The Untouchaballs have recently returned from Lisbon, where they played in the Bulldogs Touch Rugby Cup, their first-ever tournament. They finished a credible sixth out of nine teams – not bad considering they only took nine players, whilst other teams had up to sixteen people. “It was quite intense. Each match was 14 minutes and we played eight games.”

The surge in popularity has led Phil to increase the number of training sessions to twice a week. “Wednesday is a drills and skills session with a view to competing, whilst Monday is more of a get-together of social rugby where we throw the ball around.” The team is very much an international group with players from Ukraine, Italy, France and South Africa, to name but a few. There is also no age limit on who can play, though the minimum age is sixteen years old. Crucially, Phil points out that The Untouchaballs have many women players amongst their ranks and are not limited to men – one of the many benefits of touch rugby.

Despite its ever-increasing popularity, progression is not without obstacles. The team plays at the multi-purpose stadium in Lagos but on the adjoining shot-put field. “We’ve got loads of guys who want to play, but we struggle to get a pitch. We’re trying to reach out to find somewhere that not only has a good pitch but has decent floodlights. I think if we had a proper pitch, we’d have a lot more players.”

Local sponsorship would also assist the team greatly and help them pay for the hire of the pitch and travel expenses. There is no shortage of talent and enthusiasm, but what The Untouchaballs really need now is a benefactor to help keep their progression on track.

The Untouchaballs meet at the Estádio Municipal de Lagos on Mondays and Wednesdays from 19:30-21:00. For more details contact Phil at


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