The Dragons Junior Academy have entered into a strategic partnership with Cross Keys, resulting in the addition of two additional coaches on a part time basis.
The areas of Strength and Conditioning and Backs Skills have been taken up by Josh Robinson and Mark Ring respectively.
Josh Robinson, recent graduate of UWICs Strength, Conditioning, Rehabilitation and Masseur degree formally joins after completing a one year internship with the Academy and will add to his role by completing a structured CPD programme with the Dragons Senior Squad.
Mark Ring, former Wales International and current Cross Keys RFC backs coach, will work alongside current full time Junior Academy Forwards Skills Coach, Paul Young, to provide individual technical and tactical input to the player development programme at Cross Keys College.
The positions will be fully funded by Cross Keys RFC but the coaches will deliver during the day on the Dragons Junior Academy Programme, based at Cross Keys College, which was established in 2009 to provide a development programme that helps players bridge the gap between Regional Age Grade Rugby and the Dragons Senior Academy.
The selected players aged between 16-18 years of age, undertake their mainstream education with the Academy programme timetabled in daily around their academic commitments. The full time and now additional two part time coaches deliver an individual rugby development programme in the areas of technical skills, tactical skills, physical and psychological development.
Dragons Performance Programme Manger, Will Thomas commented, "We are committed to improving our Junior Academy Programme year on year and for the service to replicate the staffing levels and programme delivery of the top tier Dragons Senior Academy.
"While Ryan Harris and senior Dragons coaching staff, Rob Appleyard and Shaun Connor will continue their excellent work with our Elite Academy Players on a daily basis based at Newport High School, these new appointments will strengthen the structure underpinning that tier by ensuring our Junior Academy players have every opportunity to develop into National Age Grade, Senior Academy and eventually Professional Rugby Players. Both Josh and Mark came though a formal interview process with the Dragons Coaches and Management and both their applications were backed up by the impressive work and results they have achieved this season.'
The newly formed partnership with Cross Keys will see a number of identified payers within the Junior Academy fast tracked into the club's Premiership and British and Irish Cup fixtures.
Will Thomas added 'every season a number of our Junior Academy players play Premiership rugby, but this is usually by accident rather than design when the respective club becomes hit by injuries and are in need of additions outside their squad. The players have always given more than a good account of themselves, such as this season Daffyd Morgan, Leon Burgess and Elliot Wheaton at Newport, Dom Franchi at Pontypool and Cameron Regan at Bedwas. We felt that if players of this calibre were actually programmed into a Premiership Clubs plans they would get their opportunities earlier in the season and give themselves the best chance to impress at this level.'
Cross Keys Director of Rugby, Jonathan Westwood, added: "The club recognise and support the way that the Premiership is heading towards a younger age profile with the aim to develop as many players for Regional rugby as possible. By entering into this partnership with Cross Keys College the Club have made a financial commitment to achieving these aims.
"By synchronising the players Junior Academy training programme with the Premiership fixture list we look forward to exposing some of these young players to Premiership and British and Irish fixtures this season."
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.