Figures revealed today by the Ospreys Community Rugby team show that participation in the junior game is on the increase right across the region
Ben Rose, WRU Rugby Development Manager for the Ospreys region, has highlighted the growth in junior rugby in Ospreylia which has seen participation numbers rise by almost 50 per cent overall in age-grade rugby up to U16 level over the last three years, with each of the three unitary authorities in Ospreylia showing an increase.
Leading the way is Neath Port Talbot, which has see numbers almost double from 1,202 in 2010 to its current level of 2,347. Following behind is Swansea, where participation numbers have grown in the same period from 1,751 to 2,419, while in Bridgend there is similar growth from the 2010 figure of 1,608 to the current total of 2,022.
In total, the figures confirm, there are now 6,788 U16s regularly participating in rugby across Ospreylia compared to 4,561 in 2010, growth which bodes well for the long term growth and sustainability of rugby in the region.
According to Rose, the growth can be attributed to good old fashioned hard work and effort at grassroots level from WRU Rugby Development Department for the Ospreys Region, with the support of Ospreys players, coaches and management.
"Our annual audit of playing numbers makes particularly healthy reading this year, showing an overall increase for the third consecutive year with all three unitary authority areas rising considerably.
"It’s no coincidence that playing numbers up to U16 level are on the rise as we have put in considerable time and effort in growing participation in mini and junior rugby. Ospreys and WRU staff are working together with a common aim, which is to increase the player base at grassroots level.
"The target now is to maintain this growth and ensure that 2014 shows even more youngsters involved in the community game, as it is among them that we will find the next generation of players, coaches, administrators and supporters.
"We are extremely grateful to the volunteers in the three junior district associations, Afan Nedd, Bridgend and Swansea, who record this information to ensure we have an accurate and true reflection of the game in Ospreylia."
A combination of Ospreys and WRU led initiatives have seen youngsters introduced to the game, including the Ospreys Schools Programme, club development evenings, school cluster festivals and Trident days.
Trident days are a series of three pronged events that introduce school children to rugby with those interested being invited along to their local club for a special evening attended by Ospreys players, while coaches at the club also benefit from development sessions led by the Coach Development team.
The Ospreys Cup, a unique cross-District competition played at U15 and U16 level, is also assisting in retaining players at those age-grades.
In addition the Club Support Scheme, introduced ahead of the 2011/12 season, has seen the region grow closer than ever ties with its community clubs, rewarding those who work with the Ospreys to grow the game at all levels.
Andrew Hore, Chief Operations Officer at Ospreys Rugby, welcomed the good news, saying:
"To see a third consecutive rise in playing numbers in the region is fantastic news. Particularly satisfying is that this rise is across all three unitary authorities, with participation on the increase in Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea.
"Ben and his team do a great job in growing the game, and this is a wonderful example of us working in collaboration with WRU staff to benefit the local community. We share the same goal of ensuring long term sustainability for the Ospreys, and this kind of activity is at the very heart of what we are about, supporting those clubs that support us."