And, for the first time, the Welsh Rugby Union has played a major role in the appointment of National Age Grade coaches from Under 16 to Under 21 levels.
'Age Grade rugby in Wales is undergoing significant alterations and the quality of the new international coaches at 16, 18, 19 and 21 levels bears testimony to the intention of the WRU to provide the best personnel to work with our best young players,' said Steve Lewis, WRU General Manager.
'Regional rugby is the way forward for the professional and elite game in Wales at senior and age grade levels. Our senior professional squads will now be underpinned by top quality 16 - 20 year olds. This initiative will considerably aid the preparation of future professional players in Wales.'
The new appointments include the elevation of David Rees from National Under 19 coach to Under 21 level, where he will work alongside Chris Davey, who has been working so successfully at Under 21 level for the past six years. Newly appointed Pontypridd coach Simon King and former Under 21 cap Justin Burnell will also be attached to the Under 21 coaching set-up.
Ian Jones, the director of rugby at Carmarthen Quins, takes over as head coach to the Wales Under 19 side and he will have Gareth Nicholas, the manager of the Newport Gwent Dragons Academy, and Rob Beale, who was coach to the Wales Youth Under 18 side last season, as assistant coaches.
The Welsh Youth side will be coached by former Wales scrum half Ray Giles, who has been with the side since 1996, and Wayne Jones, who was head coach at Ebbw Vale last season. Both men are starting the WRU Level 4 coaching award this year and they will have Nigel Way assisting them as coaching co-ordinator.
Former Wales, Warriors and current Pontypridd scrum half Paul John joins the coaching team of the Wales Schools Under 18 team. With 11 years experience of teaching PE to A level standard, and a Sports Science degree from UWIC, he will be assisting Simon King in the coaching at Pontypridd this season.
He joins head coach Kevin George, the current Llanelli Scarlets Academy manager and former Wales Under 21 attached coach, Ian Gardner and Ron Shottle in the coaching set-up.
Newly appointed Cross Keys coach Nick Lloyd takes over as the Wales Schools Under 16 coach and will have the former Cardiff prop, and Welsh Women's coach, Rob Newman as his assistant. Gerry Roberts and Barry Maddocks will act as coaching co-ordinators.
'The joint appointment between the WRU and the affiliated bodies of this array of National Age Grade coaches is a significant step forward for Welsh Rugby. The appointed coaches are all highly qualified men who will make a real impact on international age grade rugby within Wales,' said Mostyn Richards, the WRU Player Development Manager.
'The WRU cannot over-emphasise the importance of the new Regional Age Grade competitions at Under 16, 18 and 20. We are delighted that Reebok share our views about these competitions being given due credibility and publicity. We are extremely excited at the prospect of our future professional players being exposed to such an intense and competitive environment that will be a challenge for all of them.'
The bulk of the players the National Age Group Coaches will be working with will come from the new Reebok sponsored Regional competitions at Under 16, Under 18 and Under 20 levels. In addition, a series of Regional Identification Competitions are being staged between 28 August-27 September to assess the best players across the country for the Under 16, Under 18 and Under 19 national squads.
Managed by the WRU Directorate staff, in conjunction with club and school personnel, the WRU Reebok Regional Championships will involve five teams at Under 16 level - Cardiff Blues are split into 'North' and 'South' because of their population and size - and the four regions will play against each other at Under 18 and Under 20 levels.
'I am extremely excited at the prospect of on-going elite competitions in Wales this season,' said Rob Howley, the London Wasps, Wales and British Lions scrum half, who is Reebok's ambassador for the tournaments. 'I was fortunate enough to come through the development process in Wales during the 80's and 90's.
'However, there were no top class competitions then for me to display my rugby expertise. The elite young players in Wales must be relishing the prospect of competing in such challenging environments.'
The three championships kick-off on 19 October with the Blues facing the Dragons and the Ospreys battling against the Scarlets at Under 18 and Under 20 levels. In the Under 16 tournament, Blues North meet the Scarlets and Blues South face the Ospreys. There will be six games in the two older age groups and eight in the Under 16 category.
The Pool stages of the Under 18 and Under 20 tournaments will end on 9 March, and the Under 16s on 26 April. There will then be three Grand Finals, with at least two of them scheduled to be played at the Millennium Stadium on the weekend of 30 April/1 May.
'We are thrilled at Reebok to be involved in the development of these competitions. I look forward to giving our wholehearted support to the WRU and the elite young players in Wales throughout this season,' said Gareth Davies, of Reebok UK.