Bedford Blues have announced a new approach in the way they go about developing young players for a future in the professional game.
The Blues Academy is recognised as one of the best non-RFU funded Academies in the country.
Players such as Sacha Harding, Will Chudley, Ali Price, Duncan Taylor, Josh Bassett, Aaron Morris and others have been developed by the Academy before moving into the first team. Many of these players have gone on to play in the Premiership and beyond.
However, the standard of the rugby in the Championship has improved significantly over the last few years, with the game becoming more and more physical.
The gap between the Academy and the Championship is getting wider, making it more difficult for an U19 player to make the jump from Academy rugby to the Championship.
To cope with these changes, and to help better prepare players for the Championship, the Blues Academy is adapting its approach and forming an Academy Development Squad.
This will allow the Blues to focus on a smaller number of players who will train as part of the Blues first team squad.
Initially they will play most of their rugby with a partner club in the National leagues where they will have the opportunity to develop by playing regular adult league rugby.
Development Squad players will play as part of a Blues Development XV, alongside Blues first team players, in a small number of games each season.
Blues Academy Director Denis Ormesher said: “The Blues Academy has been very successful over the years but to continue to be successful we cannot stand still.
“We need to adapt and evolve as the rugby environment changes.”
He continued: “When the Academy was established in 2000, our objective was to identify, recruit and develop players for the Bedford first XV of the future. This remains our goal.
“We will continue to identify young talent and will offer them the opportunity to be developed alongside the Blues first team while gaining valuable experience with partner clubs.
“We will work closely with Premiership Academies to identify players who may not be ready for the Premiership yet, but could be ready to play Championship rugby in the next one to two years.
“We will also be working closely with partner clubs to ensure that these players get meaningful rugby in the National leagues, which will benefit both the partner club, and the players’ development.
Blues Director of Rugby Mike Rayer added: “With the standard of Championship Rugby improving year-on-year, it is becoming tougher for U19 Academy players to come through the ranks straight to the first team.
“By reorganising the way our Academy operates we can focus resources on a smaller group of players, and increase the number of quality players we can develop for the first team squad.
“We believe this approach will provide a more effective way to develop young players to make the step up to play for the Blues in the Championship, and will make the Blues Academy even more successful in the future.
“This is an exciting time and we are all looking forward to seeing what future diamonds will come through the system.”