Ospreys set for U20 launch

The Ospreys will be the only region in Wales to operate an U20 side this season after confirming plans for fixtures at that age grade level as part of an extended player development pathway.

The U20 fixtures are part of an enhanced programme for the 2010/11 season that has already seen changes made to the development pathway in conjunction with the three District set-ups in the region, Afan Nedd, Bridgend and Swansea, aimed at increasing the number of teenagers and young adults actively involved in the game, and therefore, increasing the talent pool available to the Ospreys.

All four regions have previously competed in the WRU Regional Age Grade Championships at U20 level, but that competition ended following the 2008/09 season. Now, the Ospreys are once again bucking the trend by relaunching the higher age-grade set-up to allow late developing players the opportunity to catch the eye who under the existing system may have been lost to the region.

The three Districts have already introduced U17 and U19 teams for the first time this season, with the latter set to feed directly into the new Ospreys U20 set-up.

Andrew Millward, Regional Performance Development Manager at the Ospreys, has overseen the expansion of the development pathway this season and he says that the new U20 programme, in conjunction with the District set-up, will have multiple benefits not only for the Ospreys but also for the rugby community right across the region.

“Ultimately, not only will we have better players at U20 level, what we are creating is a bigger pool of quality players to come through at senior level” he said.

“If that isn’t to be at the region in the long term, it will still be benefiting our teams in the Premiership or Division One. They are the next generation of semi-pro players for local clubs, and with a larger pool of quality players, the rugby community in Ospreylia as a whole stands to benefit from this new structure.

“What is clear is that we historically lose players around this age, for whatever reason, some lose interest and others maybe become disillusioned at not ‘making it’ and find their rugby career starts to drift. The idea behind this is that if they are still playing, there’s a safety net to catch them. The reality is that the boys normally identified as U20 players tend to be playing premiership rugby already, but the question is, where does the late developer come through?

“It seems strange that the whole world plays U20 level rugby, and that Wales have an U20 team, but there is no U20 rugby in the domestic programme. Our development pathway is modeled to suit Ospreys needs, and we feel that this is the best way forward for this region.”

Players will be identified from the three District U19 teams to participate in an Ospreys U20 select game at Llandarcy Academy of Sport on Wednesday 29thDecember, from which an initial squad will be named to train together during January, February and March, before taking part in fixtures during April and May. Games against RGC 1404 and Combined Services have already been lined up.

Anyone requiring further information on the Ospreys U20 set-up and how to be a part of it should email ioan.cunningham@ospreysrugby.com.