After watching the brightest teenage talents in English rugby sparkle at Allianz Park on Monday, Premiership Rugby’s head of academies and development Mike Hynard insists the youth set-up at England’s top clubs is better than ever.
Saracens triumphed at the Premiership Rugby / RFU U18 Academy Finals Day in a dramatic re-run of last year’s Aviva Premiership Rugby final, Nick Ramsey’s last-gasp score sealing the win over defending champions Northampton Saints.
The likes of Jim Mallinder, Mark McCall, and even England fly-half Owen Farrell – who delivered an inspirational team-talk to the Saracens side before their clash – were in attendance to watch the drama unfold.
“It was a fantastic day and the games were a fine example of academy rugby and what these guys can do,” said Hynard.
“The feedback I’ve had off the clubs has been excellent, and it’s a nice way for these boys to round off what has already been a long season for some of them.
“The final was a fantastic game. High intensity, hotly contested, and either team could have won right up until the final whistle.
“But aside from the results the development opportunity is the most important thing today; the opportunity for clubs to see their boys in a pressure situation and how they cope with it.
“Jim Mallinder is here, Mark McCall is here, and some others too, all watching the next generation of players that are hopefully going to filter into their senior squad over the next few years.
“That is massively important, and you can see that Saracens and Northampton are two clubs where the academy systems are massive, and they are doing so well in the Aviva Premiership Rugby as a result.”
The U18 Finals Day gives the next generation of Aviva Premiership Rugby and England players the chance to put their hands up for professional contracts in the future.
The event also gave these players the chance to represent their club at a Premiership Rugby stadium, with several likely to progress into their first-teams over the next couple of years.
And with the likes of Owen Farrell, Marland Yarde, Anthony Watson, and Harry Thacker among others all gracing the field in recent years for their respective academy sides, Hynard is adamant England’s academies are among the best in the world.
He added: “Across the country the academy set-ups are getting better year on year, and I want to keep raising the bar.
“We’re seeing more and more academy players filter up into the Aviva Premiership Rugby, and you can use the example of Owen Farrell, who was also here.
“It was only a couple of years ago that he was playing under-18 academy rugby, and you’re starting to see more and more the like of him and Anthony Watson playing for England already.
“The game is moving forwards and younger players are breaking into the senior sides now. Maro Itoje played his first 80 minute game for Sarries last weekend and has broken in to the Saxons.
“Three years ago he was here playing for the under-18s, so it’s not that far away for these guys, and it’s fantastic to see the academy graduates helping the guys coming through as well.”