The new seasonal structure will help all levels of rugby development in Wales
WRU Head of Rugby Josh Lewsey has revealed a pioneering rugby pathway system to reinvigorate Welsh rugby following his review into the game
The basis of this is a new, aligned, seasonal structure that has been designed to allow school, club and representative rugby to flourish simultaneously whilst also providing the content of a detailed development curriculum within it.
The time that junior and youth players can train and play with their clubs and schools of origin is now greatly increased, with more concise, clearly defined training and playing blocks for district, regional and international representative rugby.
This model should provide a more effective interface between the elite and community game and help to address some of the issues faced currently by schools, clubs and representative groups all vying for players' time concurrently. Equally the emphasis is to provide guidance on both playing and coaching philosophies so that the appropriate development is delivered at the necessary age with a large focus on core skills and the values of the game.
Lewsey said, "There are two focuses. One is to reinforce the cultural attractiveness of our game. The second is to build an efficient system which maximises the efforts of people across Wales, thus helping to underpin both elite and community rugby. In creating a seasonal structure that allows players to train and play with their friendship groups for a larger part of the season, it is hoped that more players will be retained within the game, benefitting players, clubs and schools, while also providing ample opportunity for the delivery of elite performance programmes.
"One of the pinch points that came out of the review was the transfer between schools and clubs and the need to ensure a smooth pathway back into the community game for those that drop out of the elite spectrum in order not to lose those players altogether, and the new seasonal structure will form part of an overall system which will hopefully begin to greatly improve that relationship."
Players, parents and coaches will be made fully aware of the accompanying philosophies and the age specific objectives as supporting material is made available from the Union which emphasises developing a love of the game, building confidence and self-esteem in the early years, and gradually introduces the various elements of the game such as the tackle, the offload, the line-out and scrum while placing an increased priority on challenging with the ball in hand.
Lewsey added, "It is vital to create a direct link between our national team and grass roots rugby and therefore we have worked closely with Warren and the national coaching team to ensure the content of the skills and development curriculum is applicable at every level, imparts the best possible advice from world class coaches and provides a more qualitative foundation for our future internationals."
As the emphasis is also on creating cultural role models and intelligent players, the pathway has been designed to support the academic timetable, mindful of the need to develop good rounded people not purely good athletes.
"This is the first step in a long term process and while we are well aware that we don't have a magic wand, it's certainly a step in the right direction and we are convinced these changes will have a positive effect on the sustainability of Welsh rugby.
"We are working closely with Sport Wales to achieve our joint aspiration of getting every child hooked on sport."
The season structure has now been sent to all clubs and affiliated organisations, and more information, including supporting material will follow in the coming weeks.
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.