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Academy production line set to roll

01 August 2002

The production line that has been created to help England win the 2007 World Cup will start to roll on September 1.
That is the official starting date for the new England Rugby Academy system, the most comprehensive in British sport, which forms part of the Rugby Football Union's World Class Performance Plan and which has been established with �8 million of National Lottery Funding over the next three years.
There will be a new National Academy, under the management of Brian Ashton, supported by 14 Regional Academies, who will develop around 300 of the country's most talented players in the 16 to 21 age groups.
All 12 Zurich Premiership clubs have secured franchises to run a Regional Academy and the other two have been created on split sites in the West Midlands at Worcester RFC and Birmingham University and in South West Further Education Colleges at Truro in Cornwall and Ivybridge, Exeter and Barnstaple in Devon.
Each Academy has a manager and assistant manager who will be responsible for implementing a programme of training, support programmes and personal guidance aimed at making the most of each player's ability.
An elite squad of around 60 youngsters in the Under-19 to Under-21 age groups will then be selected for the National Academy where they will train alongside the senior England squad to help familiarise themselves with the international set-up.
David Shaw, the RFU's Director of Academies, said: "I am fed up with people talking about Australia and New Zealand, I want England to be the team to beat and to win the World Cup in 2007.
"To achieve that we have got to have a production line of players which is why we have created the Academy structure. If we can get three players from the Academy playing first team rugby on a regular basis I will be very happy. If we can then get three players from the regional academies playing for England regularly then I will have done a good job."
The Regional Academy directors have selected their first intake of players from a number of different sources -- schools, county development squads, age group festivals and by direct referral.
The players will combine rugby training with academic work and all the Regional Academies have forged links with local schools, colleges and universities who are prepared to allow the players to devote three hours each day to skills, fitness and tactical work.
"Istvan Balyi, a forward thinking authority on long term athletic development, said that to produce an individual athlete takes ten years and requires three hours of training every day over those ten years," said Shaw.
Shaw hopes that the Academy structure will provide England with a steady flow of talented youngsters feeding into the national Under-19 and Under-21 sides and then into the A and senior squads. He also envisages the National Academy playing some representative fixtures against the likes of the French and South African Academies.
The regional academies will not play as individual sides, instead the players will play for their clubs on Saturdays at anything from first team to Under-19 level depending on age and potential.
High standards are expected of all academy players and, their progress will be monitored carefully and their contracts are renewable at the end of each season.
"This lot, the first intake, have to get better to stay, the next lot have to be better to get in," said Shaw.
Shaw, a former Loughborough Colleges, Rosslyn Park, Leicester, Headingley., Gosforth, Yorkshire and North lock, was appointed Director of Academies last year after working for the RFU as a Divisional Technical Administrator, National Youth Development Officer and Development Officer.
The managers of the regional academies are: Bath: Frank Butler, Bristol: Paul Hull, Gloucester: Carl Douglas, Leeds: Stuart Lancaster, Leicester: Andy Key, London Irish: Corin Palmer, London Wasps: Rob Smith, Harlequins: Tony Russ, Newcastle: Paul MacKinnon, Northampton: Andy Street, Sale: Marty Hulme, Saracens: Patrick Jerram, Worcester: Nigel Redman, South West: TBC.