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GUERNSEY will be heading to the European Touch Championship next week aiming to maintain its sixth place ranking.

After the 2010 Euros in Bristol, Guernsey as a nation was ranked sixth but gained points because it had four teams at the tournament. This time, just a mixed team will represent the island at the five day tournament in Italy.

‘This is the first time since 2004 that we have not sent more than one team but the tournament is longer than ever and unusually is during the school term to avoid the peak summer temperatures,’ said Guernsey Touch chair Katrina Bray.

‘The organisers have also stipulated that teams are there the day before and so we are away for a week, which is a huge commitment in terms of time for every player and it also adds to the expense. We’re lucky to have sponsorship from FNB but players still need to pay hundreds of pounds to attend.

‘That means we could only send one team and so retaining our sixth place ranking will be a tough ask of the players but they are going into the tournament having recently won the inter-insular and seven of the team represented Guernsey at the World Cup in Edinburgh last year where they finished ninth and won the Mixed Bowl.’

Captain Chris Goddard, vice-captain Justeen Baker, Carly Parrott, Ollie Ward, Richard Duchemin, Matt Brehaut and Sam Stables all went to Scotland in June 2011. They will be joined by Megan de Garis, Krissy Middleton, Fiona Ashworth, Owain Norman and Mark Bristowe. Georgia Smith is team manager and James Hooker, who is currently the physio for the Norwegian national rugby side and went to university in Australia with Parrott, travels as team physio.

Guernsey has been drawn in Pool A alongside France, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland and Wales, who are strong contenders for the title. The games against Ireland and Wales are on Wednesday 12th September, the next day sees Switzerland and France as opposition and the final group match against Italy is on Friday morning. The rest of the matches will depend on the group results.

‘We know the Welsh team is very strong and are aiming to win the Mixed Cup so that will be a tough game. We beat Italy 11-0 at the World Cup and met Switzerland in the Bowl semi-finals and won 7 – 1 which gives us confidence but it’s been a while since we’ve played Ireland and France and so we are looking forward to the challenge,’ said Ward who is the Guernsey coach.

‘The team has been training hard and we are feeling strong after the recent Inter-Insular success. It’s going to be a great tournament and we’re looking forward to getting there and finally putting into practice what we have spent months learning.’