After a summer during which the success of the Welsh Rugby Union's Age Grade championship was there for all to see, the 2009-10 season is poised to kick off on Sunday.
Moving into its sixth season, the competition has played a significant role in helping some of current Wales coach Warren Gatland's brightest youngsters establish themselves amongst the best players in the world.
What's more, when the British and Irish Lions squad was announced at the end of last season, the WRU was toasting its own significant investment in a tournament that has captured the imagination of all those involved since its inception back in 2004.
Lion kings Alun Wyn Jones and Leigh Halfpenny were both products of the system that the Union's head of rugby, performance and development Joe Lydon is hoping will once again bear fruit. And whilst there will be no formal under 20 competition this term, Lydon, the academy coaches and the national age grade selectors will certainly have their eye fixed firmly on the under 16 and under 18 tournaments as they swing into action.
Halfpenny, who was prolific throughout his five years in the competition, will always remember the days when he went to battle with the Ospreys. "Great days," said the Cardiff Blues wing. "It was crucial in our development that we had strong competition on a regular basis. The age grade tournament provided that and whilst the emphasis was obviously on developing players who would be good enough to go and make senior regional and international players, there was intense rivalry too. We all wanted to win the competition."
Last season it was the Blues North who lifted the under 16 crown, beating the Scarlets 16-13 in a tense affair at the Talbot Athletic Ground. And though the under 18 competition was as tight as it had been in any one of the previous four seasons, it was the Ospreys, for the fourth time, who took the spoils with a consummate 26-15 victory over the Scarlets.
So, for the Scarlets' region, Sunday's games against North Wales at Llandovery's Church Bank ground, represents an early chance to make up for last season's finals day disappointment.
In contrast, it was a challenging first season for North Wales, whose lack of physicality and conditioning left them trailing in the wake of the senior regions, despite putting in some impressive performances. Still, for performance development manager Marc Roberts, the experience of playing alongside the Ospreys, Scarlets, Blues and Dragons, will hold his sides in good stead for this term and beyond.
"I think we learned a great deal from our first season," said Roberts. "We realise that we are behind the other regions, especially in terms of our physicality and conditioning, but we have started to address that in the summer and are confident that we have made a few strides.
"Obviously we are not going to close the gap overnight and yes, this season will once again be tough for our sides. However, it took the Blues North three seasons to win a game and we achieved that in our first season. If we can build on those three victories and become more competitive, especially at under 18 level where our lack of physicality was exposed, we will all be very pleased.
"On top our conditioning, we have spent the summer working on our core skills, at under 12 to 14 levels so that when these boys come to step into the competition at 15 and 16, they will be well placed. It's an exciting time for North Wales rugby and I know that everyone is looking forward to the big kick off this weekend."
The Ospreys, Blues and Dragons will all kick start their campaigns next week with all three keen to get up and running ahead of what promises to be another outstanding season of age grade.
Wales Under 18 captain Callum Bradbury is delighted to have seen his side claim a narrow 18-17 victory against a strong SA Schools 'A' side to end the three-match Under 19 International Series in South Africa on a high note.
The Wales U18 squad spent an emotional day in the drug-riddled townnship of Hout Bay. Hout Bay Warriors President Fred Johannes said the visit was 'the talk of the town' and will dream about the day everyday for the rest of his life.
RGC 1404's new head coach Mark Jones is hoping to build 'something special' in north Wales and is already looking forward to the development region participating in the Principality Premiership for the very first time.
A joint venture between the WRU and Admiral saw hundreds of children enjoy the Admiral Festival of Rugby held at the National Centre of Excellence at the weekend where Welsh internationals Sam Warburton, Scott Williams and Rob Evans were in attendance.
Wll Jones leads Wales U18s into battle this afternoon against Italy where the Welsh side will be seeking to bounce back from their narrow defeat to SA Schools in their opening clash of the U19 International Series
All four regions attended a successful training camp staged last weekend at the WRU National Centre of Excellence. It was a chance for new Wales Women's head coach Rowland Phillips to deliver his key messages to players and coaches as he prepares for the new season.
Wales U18 Team Manager Gethin Watts believes the next couple of weeks will be 'extremely beneficial' to the future of Welsh rugby as his side prepare to take part in the Under 19 International Series being staged in South Africa.
The WRU is searching for 12 new rugby development apprentices following a successful first year of its WRU Coach Core programme. Craig Duncan and Jess Hancock have flourished in the first year of the programme which has given them a real direction in their lives.
The WRU signed TV comedian Rhod Gilbert up to a 'Coaching Children Level 1' course before letting him loose on an U8s side at Whitland Junior Borderers - we went behind the scenes to film the making of 'Rhod Gilbert's Work Experience' see the results here.
Llandovery are aiming to make it three titles in a row in this year's Foster's National 7s being held at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday 28 August. Drovers assistant coach Simon Davies and Lee Rees assess their sides chances
A pioneering strength and conditioning programme has been delivered to more than 8000 boys and girls at hub schools throughout Wales this season, helping to develop stronger, more flexible athletes for rugby and other sports.
The Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series returns to the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on July 22nd when all four Welsh regions go head to head. Scarlets skills coach Dai Flanagan and Blues Elite Performance Pathway Manager Richard Hodges along with current Welsh squad members were at the launch of this season's event