TOP BAR - Fixtures

Kennedy: Big is not always better

Size is now the least important characteristic in selecting young talent, according to London Irish academy director Nick Kennedy.

The RFU’s annual anti-doping report was launched yesterday as part of the ongoing effort to tackle the use of illegal performance enhancing substances and recreational drugs in rugby.

Kennedy – a former Exiles, Harlequins, Toulon and England lock – insists that young players who think getting to top level rugby is all about getting as big as possible are just plain wrong.

The 33-year-old emphasised that core skills would always triumph in the professional arena.

“As an academy coach we are looking for talented, intelligent rugby players – not just the biggest kids out there,” he said.

“We want guys that have good spacial awareness and skills, and while it does vary by position, nowadays we need props that can pass well under pressure and full-backs that can catch the ball consistently.

“Size does not matter really. We recruit fairly young now – usually 14 to 16-year-olds – and everyone grows at different rates so you have to concentrate on the skills aspect.

“Young guys that think rugby is all about getting big are wrong. They should spend as much time with a rugby ball playing the game as they can.

“We try to encourage our guys to touch a rugby ball 200 times a day so they are comfortable with it.”

The testing programme last season comprised 536 tests, taken in and out of competition, and included both targeted and random selections.

The report confirmed five positive results ranging from university to Level 1 of rugby and one case of possession and trafficking at county level.

Six additional cases from last season are ongoing and not included within the report.

Separately, 481 tests were conducted as part of the RFU's Illicit Drugs Programme, where four positive results were found.

The cases concerned are treated confidentially with a 'first strike' fine and access to assessment, rehabilitation and counselling. 84% of all available players were tested at least once during the season.

Education sessions were also delivered across all Premiership Rugby clubs last season.

The RFU’s report also reveals the steps taken alongside UK Anti-Doping to educate young people and prevent substance abuse.

These include enhanced testing methods, outreach programmes and increased education at elite and club level, and Kennedy was adamant the academies are firmly against the overuse of supplements.

He said: “Our concentration is on nutrition, lifestyle and having a well-balanced diet. If you’ve got those things right you don’t really need supplements at that stage.

“Obviously some of our older guys do need them as they work so hard, but it is a tiny bit extra and our focus is on educating them about when and how to use them.

“We have excellent strength and conditioning coaches who speak on an individual basis with each player.

“The emphasis is always about developing skills and making them better rugby players.

“If you look at Richie McCaw’s book, he says when he was younger it was all about running for him. He doesn’t talk about getting bigger and stronger, he talks about getting fit and handling the ball. So that is a lesson that the English academies have been learning from one of the best.”

Latest News

Singha Premiership Rugby 7s live on BT Sport with highlights on Channel 5

Channel 5’s landmark coverage of domestic rugby begins in earnest this week, with the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s finally returning…

Sale Sharks: The Next Generation

Sale Sharks can announce the first group of Junior Academy players who have been offered a five-year contract, plus a…

Sale Sharks

Saracens name squad for Singha Premiership Rugby 7s

Tom Whiteley will skipper a youthful Saracens side in this weekend’s Singha 7s tournament at Franklin’s Gardens, after the Men…

Tom Whiteley

Will Homer to captain Bath Rugby at the Singha 7s

Will Homer will captain Bath Rugby at the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s this weekend at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton. The scrum-half,…

Will Homer

Saints squad announced for Singha Premiership Rugby Sevens Series 

The Northampton Saints squad has been announced for this weekend’s Singha Premiership Rugby Sevens Series, which is being played in…

Jamie Elliott

Harlequins announce squad for Singha Premiership Rugby 7s

Henry Cheeseman will captain the 12-man squad against Gloucester Rugby and London Irish in Pool B of the Singha 7s.…

Henry Cheeseman

Wasps name squad for 2017 Premiership Rugby Singha 7s

Wasps have today named their squad for the 2017 Premiership Rugby Singha 7s, which will be hosted at Franklin’s Gardens…

Dan Robson

London Irish name squad for Singha Premiership Rugby 7s

London Irish have named their side for the 2017 Singha Premiership Rugby 7s, which will be held at Northampton Saints’…

Rory BRand

Harlequins set for pre-season training camp at adidas’ German HQ

Following the conclusion of the Premiership Rugby Singha 7s series this weekend, Harlequins travel to Herzogenaurach to continue their pre-season…

Harlequins set for pre-season training camp at adidas’ German HQ

Chiefs sign van der Sluys

Exeter Chiefs have bolstered their squad ahead of the new 2017/18 season with the acquisition of powerful South African lock…

Wilhelm van der Sluys

Sharks Announce Exciting Squad For Singha 7s

Sale Sharks can announce an exciting squad to take part in the Premiership Rugby Singha 7's this weekend at Franklin's…

Paolo Odogwu

Leicester Tigers Singha Premiership Rugby 7s team announcement

Leicester Tigers have named their squad for the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s. Tigers take on Newcastle Falcons and Wasps on…

Alex Glashan

Will Kaye set for birthday to remember with Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers’ new link-up with Loughborough University will provide youngster Will Kaye with an unforgettable birthday present. The Loughborough student…

Cameron Cowell captains Newcastle Falcons in Singha 7s

England 7s international Cameron Cowell will captain Newcastle Falcons in this week's Singha Premiership Rugby 7s at Northampton's Franklin's Gardens.…

Cameron Cowell

Stelling to lead Warriors at Singha Premiership Rugby Sevens

Max Stelling will lead Warriors in the new-look Singha Premiership Sevens this weekend at Northampton Saints’ Franklin’s Gardens. Stelling, who…

Max Stelling

Exeter Chiefs name squad for Singha Premiership Rugby 7s

Ricky Pellow says Exeter Chiefs are relishing the chance to kick-off the new 2017/18 season with a big showing at…

Max Bodilly

Gloucester Rugby confirm squad for this weekend’s Singha Premiership Rugby 7s

The 12-man Gloucester Rugby squad for this weekend’s Singha Premiership Rugby 7s action has been named, with an exciting young…

Ollie Thorley will feature for the Cherry & Whites

Worcester Warriors get set for this weekend’s Singha 7s with Gordon Ross in charge

Worcester Warriors are looking to their experienced 7s players to make an impact in the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s tournament…

Gordon Ross

Adam Radwan ready to fly for Newcastle Falcons in Singha 7s action

Having lit up last season’s Singha Premiership Rugby 7s, Newcastle Falcons flyer Adam Radwan is determined to do the same…

Adam Radwan