Clubs need to make better use of schools

Fri, Mar 30, 2012, 01:00

THE NEED to “reap a better harvest from schools rugby” has been identified as the club game’s major challenge following the IRFU’s widespread interaction process with the amateur scene.

Forty two recent meetings were held with clubs at 21 different venues across Ireland. “One of the standout points from all of the meetings was the desire for clubs and schools to work in partnership, possibly allowing for a smoother transfer from schools rugby to the club environment,” read yesterday’s statement.

Scott Walker, the union’s director of rugby development and the club game, said: “There is no doubt there are significant challenges in terms of finances, emigration and drop-off in playing numbers transitioning between youth and schools’ levels to the adult game.”

Walker added: “The recent outward perception has always been that the club game is in decline. The numbers that we have in terms of players and the emergence of new clubs, as well as the strengthening of junior clubs, has always opposed that perception and the meetings gave us further evidence on how vibrant the game is.”

And yet, the report notes there are 48 fewer adult teams in comparison to last season. Another repetitive issue raised by club officers is the need to review the current Ulster Bank League structures.

Walker conceded that the new league format, a 10-team Division One A with no play-off system and only two contacted players permitted per team, would be examined.

“While the agreement with the clubs for the league was for it to remain in place for five seasons, it was striking that many felt that while the new format has been good, that the clubs and union need to review it much earlier, something that the IRFU and branches are now committed to do as one of a number of actions emanating from the meetings.”

Clubs, according to the IRFU report released yesterday, are finding it increasing difficult to balance their books. They are also combating the alarming increase in emigration, social changes (older folk seem increasingly perplexed by “Generation Y”) and the change in culture whereby players are no longer converting into volunteers in the same number as days of yore.

The full report can be seen at: www.irishrugby.ie