The Aviva Premiership Rugby finale may still feel some distance away during the freezing days of February but for this country’s best young talent, the finish line is much closer.
With one round of regular fixtures remaining, the U18 Finals Day is just over a week away, with the top three teams from the Northern and Southern Conferences set to clash at Allianz Park on Monday February 16.
Last year’s event was visited by Northampton Saints boss Jim Mallinder, with Wasps coach Dai Young another to have assessed the quality on show.
And Mike Hynard, head of academies and development at Premiership Rugby, believes that the occasion – in its second year – provides the perfect platform for clubs to showcase their young talent.
“It is a really good spectacle of the best under-18s in the country,” he said.
“That is why we set up the event – to give our best young players the chance to play with and against the best in the country, and the Finals Day offers that.
“For the players, this is their opportunity to play in the club shirt in front of their director of rugby.
“The DoRs will be making decisions on who may get a contract in the future, so the day is a really good shop window.
“Over the next year to 18 months, I think we will see which guys who have been involved will start to kick on to their first teams.”
Gloucester’s Billy Burns, who has featured in the U18 League for the Cherry and Whites, is one such player to have made the step up to senior rugby.
And as well as the chance to further their professional credentials, the prospect of playing at the home of one of the Premiership’s biggest clubs presents another incentive ahead of the curtain coming down on the regular season.
“One of the things we want to give the players is the experience of playing in a Premiership stadium, and Saracens’ Allianz Park, as well as Kingston Park, is the obvious choice to ensure the day definitely goes ahead,” added Hynard, in reference to the 4G pitches in use.
“For any rugby fans, the day offers an opportunity to see the best young players in the country playing in top quality games against each other.
“You will not get a better chance to witness the stars of the future.”
Entry to the U18 Finals Day is free, with gates opening at 11.30am.