According to The Australian, the new model will see academies bring in boys as young as 15 in an effort to combat poaching. The academies have previously focused on school leavers.
There will now be two tiers before reaching the school leavers, with three separate groups for 15-16-year-olds, 17-18 year olds and 18-20-year-olds being established.
In the first two groups, the academies will complement school and club programs, and are designed to improve the individual skills of players. As players progress and enter the third stage they will work closely with senior clubs.
Players at the third level will play representative matches in the newly established Under 19 Rugby Championship, the National Rugby Championship and be in the mix for Junior Wallabies representation.
“We envisage these programs touching 2000-odd players at different levels,” said Rugby Australia’s high performance general manager Ben Whitaker. “Some will have access to representative teams into championships, others will get more assistance around technical, tactical and physical development, other to holistic development and as you come through the system the attention in those areas is increased.”
“It’s never easy to land on a model that every single stakeholder is completely happy with, however, we have taken a consultative approach that acknowledges the needs and tremendous value that schools and clubs deliver.”
Australian Schools Rugby Union president Bob Wallace said that while the championship will play a significant role in selecting the Australian Schoolboy sides, the academies will play regular matches against each other that could also culminate in selection.
“Could do,” said Wallace. “As we understand it, the academy games won’t clash with the championships. Indeed, the main clash they might have might well be with the schools about the level of the boys’ commitment to study and play sport and releasing them to go away for extra weekends here and there.”
Wallace also said the academy programs may involve boys under 18 who had already left school.
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