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Guernsey heading to European Touch Championships

Guernsey will be one of 16 nations taking part in this weekend’s European Touch Championships.

The biennial event, which is the biggest touch competition in Europe, will see 52 teams competing over four days at the University of Swansea fields. Guernsey has been drawn in pool C alongside hosts Wales, Jersey and Italy.

‘We’re taking a very different team to the team we took to the Euros in 2012 with only four from that side going to Swansea and another seven players who have never played at international level before,’ said Guernsey Touch player coach Ollie Ward.

‘We’ve lost some very strong players but in turn have welcomed back others who have taken a break from competing at that level and their experience will be invaluable. Hopefully those newer players will learn an enormous amount from being at the tournament which will complement what they have learnt in training and mean they will become key players who we can build future island teams around.’

The 15-strong team leave Guernsey on Wednesday with the pool stages of the competition taking place on Thursday. The top two from each pool will go through to a cup competition with the remaining teams going into a seeding tournament. Semi-finals and finals will take place on Sunday.

‘We’re aiming to finish ahead of Italy and we know that Wales, who will almost certainly be a contender for the finals, will top our group so the competition will really be Jersey. We played them in the inter-insular and we know they are strong but the team has been working really hard and so it will be all to play for on the day,’ said Ward.

Justeen Baker will captain the team with Richard Perrio as vice-captain. New caps go to Iain Thomson, Sam Ward, Fae Clerey, Laura Mitchell, Lucy Holden, Harry Burns and Annie Paul.

At 15, Burns and Paul will become the youngest players to ever represent Guernsey at an international touch tournament. Matt Brehaut, Aaron Le Masurier, Dominic Page, Mark Bristowe and Marie Curutchet make up the remainder of the team with Curutchet nominated by her team mates to be the Guernsey flagbearer.

Debbie Paul travels with the KPMG-sponsored team as manager, Alex Clark as coach and James Hooker as physio with Rebekah Fant providing additional support.

‘The team has put in hours and hours of training and are as prepared as they can be. It’s a huge honour to represent your island at an international tournament and I hope they enjoy the experience, play to their best of their ability and do Guernsey proud,’ said Guernsey Touch chair Katrina Bray.