A new Rugby Development Manager to direct the player pathway from childhood through to the elite representative level has been unveiled by the Welsh Rugby Union in a key new appointments to its restructured senior backroom team.
Carl Douglas moves to Welsh rugby from his current role as Development and Academy Manager for the Premier Rugby organisation.
He is the first senior appointment to be announced by the new WRU Head of Rugby Performance and Development, Joe Lydon.
Forty-four year old Douglas is one of the most distinguished player development managers in professional rugby union, with ten years experience at the top end of the professional game in England.
He has worked extensively with current international players who have come through the Academy process in England, having been academy manager at both the Leicester Tigers and Gloucester Rugby after completing seven years as Assistant Coach at Worcester Warriors.
He said: "I am delighted to be joining the Welsh Rugby Union at such an exciting stage in the development of the national sport of Wales.
"I am particularly looking forward to developing strong relationships in order to build on the fantastic work that is already being done for player development in Wales.
"My aim is to work closely with the people on the ground to define a common understanding of what is best practice and apply it to all levels of Welsh rugby.
"It is important for that pathway to start with children entering the game at the U8 level and continue in a structured way throughout the development pathway ultimately to the level where senior players are selected for the national squad.
"My aim is to ensure that people from the villages, towns and cities of Wales continue to have a strong, emotional attachment to their national sport by connecting them with the development of their young players.
"The task is about taking the passion and the flair Welsh players undoubtedly exhibit for the game and making sure that is developed to its fullest potential.
"I will assist in the current review ongoing at the WRU in order to examine what is currently happening at all levels of the game, so that I can identify what is already working well and what requires change and support accordingly.
"There is a tremendous amount of good work already happening in Wales and part of my challenge will be to identify and embrace that in future programmes.
"We ultimately want to reach a level where the systems and structures in Welsh rugby are the benchmark of attainment in the northern hemisphere.
"Part of my desire to work in Wales is based on my appreciation of what rugby means to its people. I genuinely believe that my work at Leicester and Gloucester, where the interest and passion for rugby was all embracing will stand me in good stead."
Douglas will join the WRU in April and run his team from the new WRU National Centre of Excellence at the Vale Resort near Cardiff.
WRU Head of Rugby Performance and Development, Joe Lydon, said: "Carl is an exceptionally talented and committed professional who will bring renewed dynamism and focus to the great team we have in place here in Wales.
"Fantastic work is taking place right now which builds on the strong foundations of the past, but we must refine our processes and structures to embrace best practice and remain at the forefront of player and coach development.
"Carl is the right man to ensure we identify a clear vision of where we must get to and how we achieve excellence in these areas.
"He will focus an enormous amount of his energy on the community game and the schools game to ensure the building blocks of Welsh rugby are all in the right place.
"Another high priority for Carl will be the Regional and national academy programme where the performance and development of Welsh players with the most potential is screened.
"Carl shares my certainty that Wales boasts young players with incredible raw talent and we have a mission to ensure that we build on the philosophy of a player and coach centred model, one that ensures every one of them has the opportunity to achieve their full potential."
WRU Group Chief Executive, Roger Lewis, added: "We are close to completing an important restructuring of our rugby development pathway and I am confident we have the right people in the correct positions to make a difference.
"We boast a national coaching team which some say is the best in the world and under Joe Lydon we are building a rugby development structure which is unparalleled for experience and talent.
"There is a tremendous amount of hard work ahead but I truly believe that the future of our national sport is in safe hands."
The Half a Game initiative is currently sweeping across Wales and proving a major success. The scheme aims to give every young player at least half a game every weekend. WRU TV recently visited a festival in Narberth where clubs have fully embraced the initiative.
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