The Ospreys U16s may have only finished their WRU Regional Age-Grade campaign this month but already preparations for 2013/14, including the selection process for next season's squad, are well underway.
For the first time the region will be operating two teams at U16 level next season, with Ospreys East and Ospreys West both competing in the WRU Regional Age Grade Championship as the Ospreys look to broaden the active player base within the community and age-grade game.
The squads will be selected from the five U15 Dewar Shield District Squads, with players from the Swansea and Swansea Valley Districts representing ‘West’, and the ‘East’ team selected from players in the Aberavon, Bridgend and Neath Districts.
Andrew Millward, Regional Performance Development Manager, said:
“It’s a major step forward for us next season, with two teams operating at U16 level, which will help us to broaden the player base and encourage greater player retention at a time when many players are lost to the game for numerous reasons.
“We firmly believe that it is crucial to keep as open a mind as possible when it comes to the development of young players, and by exposing even more players to regional age-grade rugby, it allows us to cast the net even wider and allows the late developers even more of an opportunity.
“By offering more young players the opportunity to develop on the regional pathway, we can keep more local players engaged.”
With schools in the region on their half term break either last week or this, the Ospreys’ Llandarcy HQ has been a hive of activity with members of the five Dewar Shield squads participating in a series of skills and fitness based tests similar to those undertaken by members of the senior Ospreys squad.
Led by Derrick Speirs, Elite Youth Development Conditioning Coach, aided by Swansea University’s Gareth Stratten, the sessions have seen the young regional hopefuls put through a series of physiological and biometric tests designed to give the conditioners a full profile of each individual as they work towards their aims of becoming Ospreys players.
Ospreys age-grade coaches and conditioning staff will then put the players through their paces as part of a broader talent ID scheme, with a view to recognising players with the ability and character to be a part of the Eyasses set-up for next season.
The Ospreys development programme is coordinated by Dan Griffiths and will run over the next nine weeks on Monday evenings at Llandarcy. Over 120 players will receive development along the lines of the Ospreys 6 Pillars of Development; Technical, Tactical, Holistic, Physical, Psychological, Nutritional.
“These testing sessions are just one part of the jigsaw, but an important part nevertheless” added Millward.
“It’s good to be able to get these young players into our environment so that we can take a look at them and see what they are capable of.
“It’s an opportunity for them to come into our set-up and get a taste of what it’s like here. It’s hard work, and it’s quite an intense session, but the performance and attitude of the boys involved will be monitored closely.
“This week’s sessions will be followed by a nine week development programme, during which time we will watch each of the participants closely to see who displays the right characteristics to possibly become an Osprey.
“The selection process for next season is a lengthy one, and no decisions will be made at this stage. We’ll leave no stone unturned to make sure the right players are invited to be part of the two Ospreys U16 squads, but we don’t just cast aside those who aren’t selected. We understand that it is far too early an age to write anyone off who doesn’t make a representative squad as players develop at different times, and we want to encourage as many players to keep on playing as possible.
“A broader playing base benefits the whole rugby community in the region, and thanks to the excellent relationship we have built with the District, Schools and College set-ups, our extended development programme offers a wide range of opportunities for all age-grade players.”