Fixtures - Top Bar

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

‘One Turf Concept’ agreed by rugby, soccer and hockey

World Rugby, FIFA and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) have developed a ground-breaking protocol for multi-surface playing fields that could…

Premiership Rugby Balls

Referee appointments: Wayne Barnes takes charge of 180th Aviva Premiership Rugby clash

Referee Wayne Barnes makes his return to Aviva Premiership Rugby action this weekend, as he takes charge of the huge…

Bath Rugby’s Semesa Rokoduguni raring to go for The Clash

Bath winger Semesa Rokoduguni is already counting down the days until his side meet with old rivals Leicester Tigers in…

Semesa Rokoduguni

Aviva Premiership Rugby on BT Sport and ITV

England’s triumphant Six Nations stars will return to their Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs this weekend to continue their assault on…

Sam Aspland-Robinson and Calum Waters re-sign with Harlequins

Harlequins is delighted to confirm today (Wednesday 22nd March) that Academy members Sam Aspland-Robinson and Calum Waters have committed their…

Calum Waters

George Nott Signs A Five Year Deal With Sale Sharks

George Nott has become the latest Sale Sharks player to commit his long term future to the club after signing…

George Nott

Will Hurrell: Bristol Rugby will fight until the very end

Bristol Rugby have been left to lick their wounds for almost three weeks following their disappointing defeat to Worcester Warriors…

Break came at the right time for rejuvenated Sale Sharks, says Magnus Lund

Sale Sharks’ Magnus Lund believes his teammates have taken the opportunity to clear their heads during the Aviva Premiership Rugby…

Leicester Tigers’ George McGuigan ready to kick on after Anglo-Welsh Cup triumph

Leicester Tigers hooker George McGuigan believes his side can draw on their Anglo-Welsh Cup victory over Exeter Chiefs when they…

Jonny May itching to return for Gloucester Rugby ahead of Bristol challenge

Gloucester Rugby winger Jonny May is raring to play again in club colours after featuring in three of England’s four victories in a title-winning…

Marc Jones and Will Cliff re-sign for Sale Sharks

Sale Sharks are delighted to announce that Marc Jones and Will Cliff have re-signed for Sale Sharks, both on two…

Marc Jones and Will Cliff re-sign for Sale Sharks

Round 18 Preview: Saracens v Bath Rugby

Saracens have won their last two Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, against Sale and Newcastle Falcons, to end a three game…

Round 18 Preview: Saracens v Bath Rugby

Round 18 Preview: Wasps v Worcester Warriors

Wasps have lost just one of their last nine Aviva Premiership Rugby fixtures: 28-34 at Sale in round 15. Wasps…

Round 18 Preview: Wasps v Worcester Warriors

Round 18 Preview: Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks

Exeter Chiefs are unbeaten in the last ten rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby since their 10-13 loss at home to…

AJ MacGinty

Round 18 Preview: Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers

Northampton Saints have lost just two of their last seven Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters, both away from home, to Bath…

Freddie Burns

EPCR European Player of the Year 2017 winner to receive one million air miles courtesy of Turkish Airlines

With the high-profile quarter-final matches in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup less than a fortnight away, EPCR in conjunction…

Round 18 Preview: Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons

Harlequins have lost their last three matches at the Twickenham Stoop in all tournaments, against Edinburgh in the European Challenge…

Will Witty

Round 18 Preview: Bristol Rugby v Gloucester Rugby

Bristol Rugby have won just once in Aviva Premiership Rugby since the 12th round: 12-11 at home to Bath on…

Matt Scott

USA star Taufete’e commits to Warriors

Warriors have completed the permanent signing of talented USA international Joe Taufete'e. Having initially joined the Club on a short-term…

Joe-Taufete'e