Like any other sport in the country, rugby on the back of Covid-19 is facing major challenges, and with no end point in sight, the effects will be felt for years to come.
During the professional game offers some relief from the increasing daily pressures of life, the school and club games come to a standstill.
This poses all sorts of problems for the IRFU, not least with regard to the National Talent Squad (NTS) program, which is part of the It has become a cornerstone for the production of stars of the future.
Not every young player will be naturally as gifted or automatically drawn to rugby as James Ryan or Garry Ringrose, and since there are currently no games or suitable training programs on the field below state restrictions, the IRFU are well aware of the risks that teenagers may turn away from rugby.
Those who get an academy contract because of their natural talent g will still find their way to the provinces, but for the young players whose potential has not yet been reached there is a real fear that they could slip through the net.
“It’s a big problem because even if you look at our national team, everyone knows the examples of late developers who got through, who had late growth spurts, or who moved from one school setting to another, or just suddenly clicks on different levels for them « , says Peter Smyth, Head of Elite Player Development at IRFU.
« There has been a dropout rate in all sports for 20 years. It wasn’t just down to the pandemic and what was going on.
« We know the players come from all walks of life in Irish rugby, some through the Senior Cup, some through the youth system.
» At some point it turns out that the AIL went to the provinces between two and four professionals a year, so we definitely cannot afford to drop out of school. «
The IRFU also has the prospect that young players will learn from other sports how to avert soccer and Gaelic games, especially from rural sports that are not necessarily rugby strongholds.
« David Hawkshaw played a little hurling with Dublin and played against this very good Limerick team in Croke Park. Obviously Conor Nash was someone I met several times in Navan before he took the opportunity and went to Hawthorn.
“Anyone can only connect, build a solid relationship and show them the opportunities that are available can offer him in his sport.
« There are many examples of other sports that have been successful in talent transfer. This is something that we are very focused on in rugby because we want to maximize every single path we have in Irish rugby to bring out the best players for all ages and international teams. «
There are currently 67 players enrolled in the province’s four academy systems, 80 to 85 percent of whom are expected to sign professional contracts.
Typically this time of year, the Senior and Junior Cups are in full swing, while the Six Nations of U-20 fans offer fans the chance to see some of the best talent in the country.
Without such games to judge players by, fear rises among young hopefuls, but the IRFU is eager to give as much time as possible for them to prove themselves before making decisions about academy contracts.
“So we’re trying to keep as many people alive as possible for as long as possible over the next six to 12 months to please everyone.
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« We’d be naive to believe that there wouldn’t be a strange example, but it limits that damage to the whole system as best we can.
» It will take some of this next generation of Irish internationals for longer Yes, I think it will be because they didn’t have access to these top-level games when they were 18, 19. «
Smyth insists that the IRFU does not intend to have a central academy system, admits one thing, however, that greater movement of young players between the provinces is inevitable.
« Ultimately, it always happens that the players seek the best opportunity to play the game. »
« The system is supposed to provide the players with the resources and skills with which they can maximize their talent and offer them opportunities to play.
» Then the player has to see where the best chances are for him. »
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