The U16 Wellington festival drew to a close with the final set of matches after a week of rugby activities.
Youngsters from Exeter Chiefs were part of the week-long programme, which is held annually at Wellington College, Berkshire and aims to develop both academy players and coaches on and off the field in a variety of areas.
Providing an environment where the players are encouraged to explore the game, the programme also focuses on five main areas, known as C.A.R.D.S (Creativity, Awareness, Resilience, Decision-Making and Self-Organisation).
“The 18s use CARDS as a frame of priority skills that they try and promote at that age group,” said head of international performance Dean Ryan (pictured). “That is just a sharing of that knowledge to a wider group. These are the priority skills we encourage the players to express themselves with and we think they are an important building block as they move forward into 18s.
“It’s the first look that if they go into a national programme at what will be the priority skills which supports their move in 20s and the wider game. It’s one thread of lots of things that are going on.”
On the field, over 400 players from the 14 academy teams trained and played against each other in a number of matches, challenged with law variations to encourage free flowing, skilful rugby.
Tuesday saw presentations to the parents about the England Rugby player pathway and CARDS, the role of the parents in developing their son, life outside of rugby, social media and concussion awareness.
There were also two matchdays between the teams on Tuesday and Saturday, while national coaching day on Thursday saw a number of school teachers from up and down the country visit Wellington to share their expertise with England head coach Eddie Jones a key note speaker on the day.
“The festival is a valuable opportunity at a key contact point for all 14 academies and pathway coaches to get together and have a consistent period of games,” added Ryan. “The festival focused on a four key areas, law variations, integration, coach development and education.
“The integration we saw is really important. Referees are there sharing their knowledge, experience and thoughts during time outs in games. Integration between coaches, players, referees and schools is also hugely important.
“Thursday focused on coach development and the sharing of ideas while education also featured including sessions with the RPA as well as concussion awareness, heart screening, nutrition, social media knowledge and professional sports pressures.”
The festival also offers the opportunity for the England player pathway coaching team to take a further look at the academy players ahead of the only England U16 fixture this season, taking place against Wales U16 on Sunday 30 April.
14 Premiership Rugby Academies: Bath Rugby, Bristol Rugby, Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester Rugby, Harlequins, Leicester Tigers, London Irish, Newcastle Falcons, Northampton Saints, Sale Sharks, Saracens, Wasps, Worcester Warriors, Yorkshire Carnegie.