Representatives from schools and junior clubs from across Ospreylia came together at Llandarcy this week for the launch of the 2013/14 Ospreys Cup.
The Ospreys Cup has established itself in recent seasons as the competition that matters to clubs in the region at U15 and U16 level, and more teams than ever have signed up for the 2013/14 competition.
New for the coming season though, is a brand new schools version of the Ospreys Cup that will be played at U14 and U16 level, offering more opportunities than ever for young people in the region to experience competitive rugby under the banner of the WRU/Ospreys Community Rugby team.
Unique to the region, the Ospreys Cup has seen clubs enjoying cross border competition against teams that they wouldn’t normally encounter with teams from Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea going head-to-head, with everyone offered a chance to play for silverware via a Cup, Plate, Bowl, Shield and Challenge Cup format beyond the round robin pool stages.
Last season Neath Athletic defeat Penclawdd 17-12 in the U15 Cup final, while Ystradgynlais saw off Pencoed 16-11 in the U16 Cup final. Other winners at U15 level were Glynneath (Plate), Nantyfyllon (Bowl) Dulais Valley Lions (Shield) and Waunarlwydd (Challenge). In the older age-grade Pontarddulais won the Plate with Glynneath taking the Bowl. Also successful were Tondu (Shield) and Bridgend Sports (Challenge Cup).
Club and schools representatives were joined at the launch by Ospreys players Rhys Webb and Dafydd Howells. 18-year old Howells is himself a graduate of the inaugral Ospreys Cup having played in the successful Abercrave team which won back to back silverware in the competition.
The new Schools version of the Ospreys Cup is divided into two initial categories, an open competition and a development competition. In the open competition, schools are drawn in a cross-border pool against those from other unitary authorities, providing qualification for the Welsh Cup.
Alternatively, schools can opt to take part in the Development competition, with the best teams qualifying for a secondary regional competition against the schools that failed to qualify for the national competition.
Ben Rose, WRU Development Manager for the Ospreys region, said:
“The Ospreys Cup continues to go from strength to strength, and after another successful season of club rugby in 2012/13 we are delighted to now be able to confirm details of a new schools rugby competition structure to run alongside the club competition.
“The sole aim of the Ospreys Cup is to encourage and sustain participation in the game at an age where statistics have traditionally shown a drop-off in playing numbers across Wales. Since 2010 we have seen participation numbers in age-grade rugby in Ospreylia rise by almost 50 per cent, and the Ospreys Cup is one of the key factors in that.
“We fully understand that while the club game is strong in some areas of the region, in some areas the school team will be the main focus for rugby, and that is why we are now extending the Ospreys Cup programme into schools for 2013/14.
“It puts a greater emphasis on schools rugby, allowing even more young players the opportunity to enjoy cross District competition and the chance to put themselves forward for representative honours.”
Ospreys Chief Executive, Andrew Hore, added:
“Age-grade rugby is the lifeblood of the Ospreys; without it, there are no future players, supporters or administrators. We are 100 per cent committed to growing the game at junior level, which will provide a platform for the long-term success of the Ospreys.
“The Ospreys Cup is a real success story thanks to the hard work of both Ben Rose and his community development team at Llandarcy and of the army of volunteers across the region who are the driving force of rugby in Ospreylia.
“Hopefully, this year’s competition will provide memories that will last these children a lifetime, inspiring a long-term love for rugby.”