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Dear All

AGE GRADE RUGBY KICK OFF – September 2016

The Age Grade Rugby season kicks off this week.  As we start this exciting year, I wanted to thank everyone who has been involved in the work over the last five years.  Your input has been really constructive and without it we would not be at this important point for young people playing our sport now and in the future.  This season sees significant changes to make the game more about what motivates the players themselves and whilst change takes time, we all owe it to those young players to visibly drive the evolution together.  We must also be prepared to be challenged by them and others if we drag our heels or are not aligned to the new framework of Age Grade Rugby.  Your support in modelling best practice and taking our clubs, schools and colleges with us is going to be vital.

This message is also an opportunity, based on some helpful feedback this summer from across the game, to provide the following confirmation and clarification for everyone of some of the key elements from this point forward.

1. “What do we need to do?”

As the season commences it is important that the principles of Player Centred, Development Driven and Competition Supported underpin the game. The players and their motivations should be at the heart of all decisions.  Schools, colleges and clubs must help all players to have a balanced playing/training programme that helps them enjoy their rugby and want to come back year on year for a lifetime.  Here are some key reminders and helpful links:

Play to the Rules

  • Keep player safety front and centre at all times – there are no short cuts to safety and no excuses for a lack of focus on player welfare
  • The rules of play are the maximum point to which an age group can play – use flexibility but don’t go beyond them
  • RFU rules of play are written in conjunction with World Rugby laws including U19 variations (eg. 1.5m push in scrum up to U19)
  • Mixed (girls and boys) rugby is up to and including U11.  Single-gender rugby starts from U12 with girls in dual age bands at U12/13, U14/15 and U16-18  
  • Lineout progression is introduced across the game at U14-16 for boys and girls. Other than the uncontested lift at U15, World Rugby Laws apply

Play to the Regulations

  • Regulation 15 – Age Grade Rugby and supporting guidance is for everyone in the game and applicable in all environments and levels
  • Observe the start and end dates of the season and only organise approved out-of-season rugby (Reg 15.6 & 15.8)
  • Obtain the right permissions for all activities from the CB/CSU or nationally as stated in regulation
  • Meet the rules on playing up and down ages (Reg 15.3, 4 & 5) especially the circumstances in which these apply – Age Grade Rugby is age group-based first and foremost to help players progress and enjoy the game with their friends safely; deviate from this only in exceptional circumstances
  • Align to the national menu and calendar – these are now the regulation of the age grade game

Play to the Competitive Menu (Click Here)

  • Friendlies, Triangulars and Festivals only until U12 – all about maximum participation and driving inclusion based on player’s priorities
  • Waterfall tournaments added at U12-13 with overall winners while every team plays same number of matches
  • Knockouts start from U14 and Leagues from U15

Play to the Representative Rugby Menu (Click Here)

  • Representative rugby and Academy personnel need to observe the age group menu for representative rugby at sub-county/district and county level – this area is a major factor in overplaying and underplaying (and therefore in the retention) of players of all abilities
  • The menu is designed to move towards a clear and single pathway for our players of potential but will only do so if stakeholders work together.  CB and Academy staff not working together or not working to the framework does not put our players first and must be addressed
  • The menu is also designed to ensure that the time players spend away from their core playing programme in their club, school or college is limited – the default must be to help them improve in their core programme, not outside of it
  • County/CB rugby is an integral part of the regional Under 16 system. District rugby outside of the DPP is not included at U13, 14 and 16

Play to the Competition Playing Calendar (Click Here)

  • This is not a priority calendar, it is not when schools/colleges play and when clubs play, it is not for schools and clubs to tell each other when they can and cannot play.  It is a calendar of when organisers stage competitions and rep rugby to balance high intensity playing activities for all player’s benefit
  • Clubs, schools and colleges can arrange and play at any time during the season.  For their players playing in more than one environment, they must have a dialogue with each other based on the player’s wish to do both.  The calendar aids this conversation.  No communication is not an option
  • Competition organisers must place competitive opportunities at all levels in the blue weeks for schools and orange weeks for clubs (in all Girls rugby ages & at U12-16 for Boys)
  • Competition organisers must align competitive opportunities to the Male U17-18 calendar – there are defined weeks, not windows at these ages
  • Representative rugby organisers must align their activities to the yellow weeks – the current DPP review will further clarify consistency in future

2. Game Support – USB sticks

Each club and school will be receiving a USB stick loaded with all the vital information you’ll need to help implement the Age Grade Rugby changes including the areas above. This also includes video clips to explain the changes and detail on our training offer.  Please do use these and share with coaches, teachers, referees, volunteers and importantly with your parents to help explain the improvements to the game for our young male and female players.

Further information can be found online at www.englandrugby.com/agegraderugby with continual updates throughout the season.

3. Further Developments for Season 2016-17

Implementation of Age Grade Rugby changes is phased over two years, with the final U17-18 Menu and Calendar landing from September 2017. Work on this culminates this autumn with the final Competition Playing Calendar for the 2017-18 season for all Age Grade Rugby released this November.   

The impact of the changes will be reviewed continuously through a review system across the game.  We are already putting further focus on the crucial transition between the upper end of Age Grade and adult rugby, for example.  The results of the Youth Player Survey are being analysed to provide insight to support our work across all ages and we will be able to share this with the game soon.  On that note, a huge thanks to everyone who sent on the Survey to their players, we had an excellent response approaching 7000 young people!  This season’s Survey will open in May 2017.

Please continue to pass on this information and advocate the developments to everyone involved in Age Grade Rugby across your area.  A version of this update will also be going across all our contacts in the age grade game including Roadshow attendees to help everyone complete their preparations for the new season.  If you have any specific questions please do get in touch on agegraderugby@rfu.com.  

Once again, thank you for your ongoing support for all young players across our great game and here’s to another enjoyable season on and off the pitch in 2016-17.

All the Best,

Mark.


Mark Saltmarsh | Head of Education Development | Rugby Football Union | Rugby House | Twickenham Stadium | 200 Whitton Road | Twickenham | TW2 7BA | Tel: +44 20 8831 7658 +44 7740 565 061 |Fax: | marksaltmarsh@rfu.com | www.englandrugby.com