Scottish Rugby launches comprehensive new Schools & Youth Playing Programme

Scottish Rugby launches comprehensive new Schools & Youth Playing Programme

Scottish Rugby has today - August 27th - announced the most comprehensive change ever to youth rugby in the country through the first organised league system for Scotland's schools, alongside a revamp of the club youth league structure.For the first time rugby playing schools across Scotland, which are able to produce teams at every secondary school age level, have been grouped together into 'conferences' based on the number of teams they field and the quality of the rugby development programme they run.At launch seven schools conferences involving 47 schools (24 state schools, 13 of which are 'Schools of Rugby' supported by Scottish Government CashBack for Communities funding, and 23 Independent schools) have been established across the country, with many schools working in partnership, and supported by, their local rugby club.Each school will play at all age levels, with points being awarded for each team participating to give a total number of points for each school per matchday.The conferences will be played during the autumn term, with the winning school having the largest points total at the end of the fixture programme.In addition to the schools conferences Scottish Rugby today announces a revamp of the club youth league structure. Similar to the schools programme, clubs across the country producing teams at every secondary school age level have been grouped together in conferences based on the number and quality of their teams and player development.This season four club conferences involving 24 clubs and one independent school have been established, with the first round of games taking place this weekend when Currie RFC will play Stirling County RFC at all age groups, alongside three other matches.These fixtures have been aligned with the senior club fixtures, which means that the two clubs will face each other at all levels from S1 (U13) to 1stXV for the first time.The aim of the competition structure is to place an emphasis on the longer-term development process. Clubs and schools who have good coaching and player development programmes at all levels will inevitably perform well in the conference competition and be rewarded with points based on their ability to develop and retain players in their programmes.This is designed to increase the quantity and quality of fixtures being played at all age levels and ensure more players across Scotland have access to strong rugby development programmes, which are about more than just playing the game at the weekend.Keith Russell, Scottish Rugby's Director of Domestic Rugby said: "Our aim is to focus school and club attention on encouraging and supporting good rugby development cultures and by grouping schools and clubs in this fashion we are recognising that clubs and schools with like-minded ambitions can progress and develop their programmes."The structure is designed to ensure more young players are playing regular, appropriate matches with a level of intensity generated by games against teams of equal ability.The aim is to ensure that players competing in these club and school conferences play once at the weekend for either their club or school at the most appropriate level. Previously some players have played twice at weekends and this change will encourage space for new players to come into the game.This will ensure more players stay in the game, equipped with the relevant skills and attributes necessary to participate into their adult life and to maximise their potential.In addition to the 11 conferences across the country being launched today Scottish Rugby will continue to support a further 97 identified schools, 17 of which are 'Schools of Rugby' supported by Scottish Government CashBack for Communities funding and 54 clubs to develop their rugby programmes.The ultimate aim being the schools and clubs develop to a level where they can play in one of the conference structures based on the improvements that have been made to their programmes and to the number of teams they can field on a regular basis.Scottish Rugby's Head of Schools & Youth, Colin Thomson said: "We have taken time over the last year to meet with schools and clubs to understand their needs and aspirations and through undertaking healthy debate with our member clubs and affiliated schools we are delighted and hugely excited to be announcing this new playing structure which will drive the rugby development agenda over the next few years."Former Scotland head coach Frank Hadden who liaised with the schools sector during the development of the new programme said: "We needed a structure that creates more opportunities for children to play the game at a realistic level and be able to take their abilities as far as they can."We needed to move away from a cycle of boom and bust, where new, young players come in and start playing games that may be beyond their skill set and physical ability - one heavy loss and they may be lost to the game forever."You wouldn't expect someone learning a foreign language to be having fluent conversations after one or two weeks and it is the same for rugby. We intend to support clubs and schools to provide sustained development in coaching, physical preparation and skills so young players can stay in the game and grow. The playing programme is crucial to this process and this new structure delivers a great new opportunity." The opening round of Club fixtures this weekend at the launch of the Conference programme are: Presidents ConferenceCurrie vs. Stirling CountyGreen ConferenceDunfermline vs. BiggarDumfries Saints vs. WhitecraigsGHA vs. Hamilton A further six conferences start next weekend, with the final three Schools conferences starting on Saturday 12th September For a full list of the Conference matches this season please follow this link:http://www.scottishrugby.org/fixtures-results-schools-youth

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