More than 400 U16 players from academies across the country have been enjoying the inaugural Premiership Rugby U16 Academy Festival at Wellington College this week.
The 14 regional academies, made up of the 12 Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs plus Bristol Rugby and Yorkshire Carnegie, have helped bring hundreds of the nation’s best young rugby players to Berkshire.
After arriving on Sunday, teams enjoyed their first matches on Monday before spending three days on training sessions and presentations on topics like cardiac screenings and social media from guest speakers including the RFU’s Chief Medical Officer, Simon Kemp.
Further games today have seen the teams matched against opponents they don’t play regularly but who are of a similar ability level based on Monday’s results.
Premiership Rugby’s head of academies and development, Mike Hynard, said: “We have tried to get the teams to play teams they would not normally play.
“The aim is to finish the week off with some high quality games for the boys to showcase what they have been working on all season.
“We are trying to develop players that are self-organised, driven and resilient. The Premiership Rugby U16 Academy Festival takes them out of their comfort zone; it’s a different environment and they are mixing with other players from all over the country.
“It’s very exciting and it’s an opportunity for them to learn and grow.”
The Premiership Rugby club academies have provided specialist coaches, like Bath Rugby’s former England international Danny Grewcock who has been speaking to the second rows.
In previous years, county players moved into divisional rugby at under-16 level but Hynard hopes that the academies will widen opportunities for young players coming through the player development pathway.
“We understand that rugby is a late maturation sport,” added Hynard. “We are trying to keep the pathway as wide as possible for as long as possible. We are then able to be more accurate with our player talent identification and selection.
“The Wellington Premiership Rugby U16 Academy Festival is increasing those opportunities for 400 more players than have had this opportunity in the past, and we are developing more players who are looking to progress into the next generation of England players.”