Under the banner 'Powering a new generation', ScottishPower will provide facilities and equipment at five key colleges to help promising new players reach the full potential of their talent. The partnership between ScottishPower and North Wales rugby is designed to encourage school children to save energy by switching off their televisions, computers and videos and playing rugby instead.
The Llanelli Scarlets, in conjunction with the WRU, have identified five colleges, strategically placed around Mid and North Wales to enable easy access for all, to become centres of excellence for rugby development in North Wales.
Coleg Menai (Bangor), Coleg Meirion Dwyfor (Dolgellau), Coleg Llandrillo (Colwyn Bay), Yale College (Wexham) and Coleg Powys (centre of excellence will be based at Llanidloes RFC) are the designated centres which youngsters in the U14 to U19 age groups will use to develop their fitness, rugby conditioning and skills in order to reach their full potential in the sport and raise the standards of rugby in North Wales.
Since ScottishPower first backed rugby in North Wales in 1999, thousands of children in the region have taken up the sport. The elite youth programme has also led to 14 players being associated with the Llanelli Scarlets regional squads.
Four of these youngsters David Blackwell, Rhys Williams (U16), Haydn Pugh and Ashley James (U18) have made it into national age grade squads, with David and Haydn representing Wales at their respective age grade.
Rhys has just signed Academy Papers for the Llanelli Scarlets and is a product of previous Centres of Excellence projects. Rhys, 16, said: "I am delighted to see the launch of the new Centres of Excellence programme. In the past, it really helped me to realise my rugby ambitions and now this upgraded programme will boost the next generation of young players."
Llanelli Scarlets' Recruitment and Development Manager Robert Jones, the former Wales and British Lions scrum half, said: "A project such as this is essential for the future of the game - there is so much enthusiasm and ability to be tapped into in North Wales."
ScottishPower Sales and Marketing Director Jim Paterson said: "The North and Mid Wales College Centres of Excellence not only encourages children to be energy efficient - by switching off their computer games and televisions and playing rugby instead - it helps to nurture rugby talent in Wales at a crucial stage of development."
Principal of Coleg Menai Dr Haydn Edwards, who is chairman of the working party on the project, said: "This is a very positive step and we welcome very much the partnership between ScottishPower, the WRU and the Scarlets. It will support school pupils and young people to access first class facilities across the region. This investment in resources is a huge shot in the arm for the sport here."
The year-long deal will also help fund the North Wales v Llanelli Scarlets U16 and U18 games at Llanidloes in Mid Wales in August, a seven-day summer school for children of all ages in Denbigh RFC and a healthy eating scheme, to be piloted in North Powys primary schools to support the work being done by the WRU.
Austin Thomas, WRU Regional Community Manager for North Wales, said: "It's thanks to the support of ScottishPower that the sport is enlivened by such talented youngsters. The Centres of Excellence allow promising players to realise their full potential and set an example for thousands of youngsters leaving them enthusing about rugby as a healthy and rewarding activity."