The first crop of WRU National Academy players has been identified, and have begun work with the Wales national performance team this week, with an incredible 40 per cent of players identified being supplied by the Ospreys.
An initial intake of 27 players aged between 18 and 21 has been selected by the regional and national performance pathway staff with direct input from Warren Gatland’s national coaches, 11 of whom have come from the development pathway at the region.
Unsurprisingly, the figure is the highest of any of the four regions, the Ospreys once again leading the way in terms of player development and contribution to the national set-up.
The selection process has focused on choosing players with potential to add strength to the WRU’s senior international succession plan process in the immediate years ahead.
Coaches and managers have identified players who have the physical, mental and skill-based attributes to potentially develop into top class rugby athletes.
Selection has been dictated by the needs of the succession plan so individuals with the potential to develop into future international players in specific positions have also been targeted.
The National Academy players will receive expert coaching and advice from the senior Wales coaches and WRU performance staff, they will be closely monitored with the most hi-tech equipment and will benefit from the latest in sports science, player analysis and medical screening.
All the National Academy players will remain with their regionally based WRU academies and will continue to play their rugby with their respective Regions or Principality Premiership teams to develop their core rugby experience, hone skills and help fulfil potential.
The National Academy will provide specialist unit and group sessions designed to complement the players’ regional programmes, providing further opportunity for the selected players to develop.
Today (Friday) the academy players were addressed by Wales assistant coach Rob Howley who explained the attributes and attitude required to be considered for senior international selection.
They were also medically screened and took part in a series of conditioning tests organised and delivered by WRU Head of Physical Performance Adam Beard and his team.
WRU Head of Rugby Joe Lydon said:
“The aim of the National Academy is to support the identified players and complement their regionalised programmes in order to allow them to fulfil their potential.
“After input from the regional and national performance teams, the 2012 National Academy intake has been selected with the aim of accelerating individual development through world class delivery.
“We are focussed on supporting the National Academy players and their regional programmes with an eye on the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups in particular, and to set in place the systems and structures that will stand Wales in good stead well beyond that.”
Gethin Watts, National Performance Manager added:
“The National Academy staff, the WRU staff within the Regions and the Regional organisations themselves are all now working together to ensure that we follow the National Academy philosophy through every level of elite rugby in Wales which means that in order to produce quality international players for Wales, we must first produce highly talented and committed Regional players.
“The boys that have been selected are a priority group of players who will be given extra support in order to fulfil their potential. They have been selected to fulfil a succession plan drawn up in conjunction with the National Management Team who have identified potential future gaps in certain positions in the coming years, and will be fast-tracked into Welsh international teams if they continue to impress.”
The National succession plan includes players in the current National Squad, Regional players who could potentially play for Wales and individuals from Wales’ international age grade and Sevens teams.
The National Academy members will remain an integral part of the system already in place within the Regions and the national age grade set-ups, but will receive additional support, medical screening, sports science advice and expert coaching.
Rob Howley said:
“I am delighted that the senior national management team is now going to play a direct role in National Academy player development.
“It means that all our processes and aims will be aligned so that players know exactly what they have to achieve if they want to become a senior international player for Wales.”
Wales head coach Warren Gatland added:
“The Wales squad has already proved the value of identifying talent early and utilising our pathways and squad structures to develop individuals.
“Succession planning is crucial for the continued success of the senior international squad and we see it as one of our priorities.
“A successful National Academy will give us another edge in our strategic planning aimed at selecting and retaining the best players for senior Welsh international selection.”
WRU National Academy members:
Jordan Williams (Scarlets, full back / outside half), Hallam Amos (Dragons, full back), Harry Robinson (Blues, wing), Dafydd Howells (Ospreys, wing), Ashley Evans (Ospreys, full back), Cory Allen (Blues, centre), Thomas Pascoe (Blues, centre), Jack Dixon (Dragons, centre), Sam Davies (Ospreys, outside half), Rhys Patchell (Blues, outside half), Rhodri Williams (Scarlets, scrum half), Nicky Smith (Ospreys, prop), Thomas Davies (Blues, prop), WillGriff John (Blues, prop), Daniel Suter (Ospreys, prop), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys, prop), Elliot Dee (Dragons, hooker), Shaun O’Rourke (Ospreys, lock), Jack Jones (Ospreys, lock), Adam Williams (Ospreys, lock), Rhodri Hughes (Ospreys, lock), Sion Bennett (Scarlets, back row), Ieuan Jones (Dragons, back row), Ellis Jenkins (Blues, back row), Daniel Thomas (Scarlets, back row), James Benjamin (Dragons, back row), Dan Baker (Ospreys, back row)