The Welsh Rugby Union has announced a new and enhanced performance pathway structure focused on developing young players capable of succeeding at the highest levels of the elite game.
The system has been devised in partnership with all four Regions and will add value to the age grade academy structure which has been in place since 2005.
A priority within the new structure will be to increase the number of players capable of competing for regular selection in senior regional squads by further improving standards of skills, strength and conditioning and game awareness amongst the best young players in Wales, and creating a greater tie-in between the development work undertaken within the Regions and the international pathway teams.
The ultimate ambition remains to secure and maintain a formidable succession plan of talent which will ultimately leads into the senior Wales squad.
The priorities of the partnership will continue to be achieved through the Regional age grade and international player pathway structures. The Integrated Performance Pathway is the key vehicle from which young talented athletes can be developed within a framework which is underpinned by the respective Regional development programmes.
The Welsh Rugby Union will retain financial and operational control of the new structure with staff taking both overarching and regionally based roles to work with players capable of achieving the highest possible standards.
Within the new structure there will be a focus on key coaching and development staff remaining in close contact with specific players as they develop both regionally and through the international pathway teams. Additional performance support services will be provided in the key areas of programme management, player welfare, strength and conditioning, skills coaching and performance analysis.
As a result of the current review all the existing WRU staff allocated to the academy structures will remain in post although there has been a revision of duties and programme delivery to allow continuity and enhanced development.
The new structure has been established to replace a plan outlined and agreed within the Participation Agreement between the WRU and the four Regional organisations which declared that the academies would move to full regional operational and financial control.
WRU Head of Rugby Performance and Development, Joe Lydon, said: “As soon as it became clear that transferring the licenses for the academies to the Regions was not a viable option it opened up an opportunity for us to radically overhaul our existing structures.
“We have, through months of consultation with both the Regions and the staff affected, discussed how best to collectively provide performance support services to identify talented athletes at both Regional and National levels.
“We remain confident that by working in partnership with the Regions we can continue to put the players and coaches at the centre of development programmes in order to maximise potential
“We have to focus on creating young players who are good enough to gain regular selection for their Regions and the integrated performance pathway structure will be a key tool in the process.”
Chief Executive of Regional Rugby Wales, Stuart Gallacher, said: “We already work incredibly hard on developing home grown talent and this new system will help us achieve even more success.
“Our Regions have to play winning rugby and it is vital that Wales produces the kind of players who can help our teams achieve that ambition week in, week out.
“This new structure ensures the academies thrive and with WRU staff at its core we will be able to make sure all our development systems are aligned.”