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RFU announces new development programme for young players

16 July 2013

  • RFU to introduce new coaching programme for players aged 13-16
  • England Rugby Developing Player Programme will come into force next season
Youth rugby action

Photo: RFU Archive

The RFU has announced an exciting innovation, the “England Rugby Developing Player Programme”, which will be introduced next season (2013-14) to provide a clear and structured package of quality coaching for new and existing players between the ages of 13 and 16.

Clubs and schools will be invited to nominate players for inclusion in the programme, to be run jointly by the RFU, the Constituent Bodies and the 14 Regional Academies.

The programme is an evolution of the existing CB “Schools of Rugby” and has been developed following a review and game-wide consultation. Its aim is to provide a consistent and high-quality experience that is tailored to the needs of individual players to encourage their lifelong participation in rugby. It will identify those with talent and help them find the right direction to follow, whether that is into professional rugby or long-term participation at a level appropriate to them.

An important element of the programme will be to enable “talent transfer”, encouraging potential rugby union players up to the age of 16 to join the game from playing other sports.

A specialist workforce of “Developing Player Coaches”, who will be drawn from clubs, schools and academies, will be recruited and developed. These coaches will have the right mix of skills and attributes required to meet the needs of young players in this crucial period of their lives.

Stuart Armstrong, RFU Playing Pathways Manager, said: “These are exciting plans aimed at providing young players with the essential support to optimise their skills and abilities.

“This is a pretty major re-think of how the game supports players in the 13 to 16 age group, which is the first step on our talent development pathway.

“Where possible, rugby skills will be learnt in a game-like environment, not by drills in isolation. We have integrated new knowledge and understanding of the needs of a developing athlete, reflecting up-to-date developments in coaching and sports science.”

Endorsing the principles behind the changes, Assistant Academy Manager at Gloucester Rugby, Simon Lane, said: “The idea is to come away from using the term 'Talent ID' when dealing with players so young, as with varying rates of physical and mental maturation, it is impossible to accurately say which players will make it on to our senior academy even at 15.

“This programme offers wider opportunity which is fantastic for all of the players involved, with around 80 players (in Gloucester) expected to be selected in each of the squads at the youngest end of the age scale”.

The new programme will also enhance the development and quality of players who will go on to be the lifeblood of community rugby clubs up and down the country.

Bob Lawless, Developing Player Programme manager for Middlesex, highlighted the wider benefits of the programme: “Middlesex are delighted after eight years of collaborative work in the School of Rugby, to lead the new Developing Player Programme within the county.

“The coaches and management team are really looking forward to adopting and developing the changes within the programme and the perceived benefits that will improve the players, our clubs and our CB.

“Once again we look forward to working together with our partners within this programme – London Wasps Academy and the Rugby Football Union.”