Scottish Rugby outlines new Male Performance Pathway

Scottish Rugby outlines new Male Performance Pathway

Scottish Rugby has announced plans for a new Male Performance Pathway designed to retain the country’s position in the world’s top five nations over the next decade.

The plan sees the reinstatement of Scotland ‘A’ fixtures, a move to professional ‘A’ team games and expanded Academies to work with players into the U23 age bracket to deliver appropriate level game time.

There will be a focus on developing more home-grown players and better alignment between the domestic and professional game are key pillars of the new approach, which received approval in principle from both the Scottish Rugby Limited and Scottish Rugby Union Boards earlier this month.

Super6 licence agreements will not be renewed beyond November 2024 as part of the new Pathway model and clubs were informed of this on Weds 14 February via an in-person meeting. Scottish Rugby remain fully committed to the remainder of the current license agreements.

Scottish Rugby would like to thank Ayrshire Bulls, Boroughmuir Bears, Heriot’s Rugby, Southern Knights, Stirling Wolves and Watsonians FC for their significant contribution to the development of players, coaches and club infrastructure in Scotland. Over the term of the S6 licenses their hard work and commitment has helped to raise standards on and off the pitch.

The Club Rugby Board will now lead a consultation with the Premiership and National Clubs, including Super6 clubs, to determine the transition arrangements for the domestic leagues.

This will be based around the following principles agreed by the SRL and SRU Boards:

  • As fair to as many clubs as possible
  • Least disruption to 10 team National league structures and regional leagues
  • No club to be seriously inconvenienced

A new Professional Game Agreement will be created to ensure minimum numbers of Scottish Qualified players in Scotland’s pro team squads and a more formal approach to succession planning around key playing positions and connection with the national team.

Targeted investment will also be committed to the Pro Team Academies and Age Grade Representative Rugby.

Scottish Rugby is continuing its recruitment process for a new Performance Director, who will deliver the detail and implementation of the new pathway programme.

The Male Pathway Review process was instigated in June 2023 and aligns with the Scottish Rugby’s forthcoming 10-year business strategy which is currently being progressed.

The aim of the Review was to create an aligned and sustainable framework for the male performance pathway which supports Scotland being a top five team in the world through delivering:

  • A clearly defined and understood integrated performance and community playing pathway, with clarity on roles.
  • Regional performance player development programmes which complement the efforts of clubs and schools to grow the game.
  • Optimised High Performance environments that produce an increased number of locally developed Scottish players who are able to compete and win at the top of both the professional and international game.

Other objectives include a focus on players ‘playing up’ more often, a more aligned pathway throughout the game and increasing the number of players experiencing high performance and professional training and playing environments.

Independent consultants Oakwell, were engaged to support the review with recommendations and provide relevant benchmarking against other countries.

A Steering Group consisting of Scottish Rugby CEO Mark Dodson, SRL Chair John McGuigan, President Colin Rigby, Vice President Keith Wallace, Director of Rugby Development Gav Scott, Performance Director Jim Mallinder and Technical & Operations Director Stephen Gemmell, was established to consider the overall playing pathway model.

A subsequent Playing Pathway Focus Group, led by Technical & Operations Director, Stevie Gemmell was formed with representation from High Performance, Rugby Development, Super Series, Premiership, National 1 and Schools (CRB rep) and SRU President. It considered a paper prepared by the Premiership, a questionnaire undertaken with the S6 Clubs, together with a written submission  provided by Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend.

This group met between October and December 2023 and through constructive discussions and collaboration, different potential playing models were evaluated and Guiding Principles were agreed.

The Steering Group, with the addition of Scotland Head Coach, Managing Directors of Glasgow Warriors & Edinburgh Rugby, met following conclusion of the Playing Pathway Focus Group.

These groups have been part of the ongoing decision making and contributed to the recommendations agreed in principle this month by both Scottish Rugby Boards.

Scottish Rugby’s Technical and Operations Director, Stephen Gemmell said: “The professional and international game continues to develop at a pace, and for us to be competitive at the top end of the game we need to ensure that our current and future international players are developed and able to play more often in the professional environments that we have.

“We want a model that provides a focus at all levels of our game, for players to be able to play up more often and ensures there are opportunities, and the right environments, for players to be supported and challenged to fulfil their potential and ambition.

“I’d like to thank the Super6 clubs, and everyone involved in that programme over the last 5 years.”

Scotland men’s national team Head Coach, Gregor Townsend: “It’s clear that we must do better at creating more opportunities for our best young players to gain experiences and develop through playing rugby at a higher levels. The game is often the best teacher and we need to provide more games at pro-level and above for those in our U20 and Academy environments. Increasing the number of Pro Team A Games and reinstating Scotland A fixtures are two important pathways for achieving this.”

Glasgow Warriors Managing Director, Al Kellock said: “I firmly believe any pathway system has to be player focussed. We need to ensure every player has the ability to go as far in their rugby journey as appropriate.

“Alignment between our various levels is key to this. At the pro-teams we are excited about furthering our already close relationships with our clubs and junior academies as players journey from club rugby, into our pathways, professional teams and hopefully on to represent Scotland.

“A more structured Professional Game Agreement will ensure this alignment is governed appropriately and that we are strategic in our approach to developing players. Our expanded academies and A games will give further opportunity for our excellent coaching groups to influence the development of our best young players and the increased age bracket ensures performance decisions are made based on ability rather than age.”

Scottish Rugby Vice-President and Chair of the Club Rugby Board Keith Wallace said: “This has been a very extensive process taking views from across our game, and comparisons with other nations.

“What has emerged was fully backed by the Steering Group and then approved by the two Scottish Rugby boards.  Excitingly it brings a very aligned structure which should see capital invested focussed on those with the highest potential, and free movement of players. It is tailored to suit Scotland and perhaps closest to the successful models of Ireland and New Zealand.  “Having agreed “the what” we now start the important task of agreeing “the how” in relation to the domestic leagues.”

Director of Rugby Development Gav Scott said: “It is important that the playing pathway in Scotland is aligned throughout domestic rugby and into High Performance and allows players to play at the most appropriate competition level at any stage in their journey.

“The Premiership and National Leagues are an important part of this structure and we will work hard to ensure that the transition, as part of the new strategy, best supports players and clubs to ensure they are catered for regardless of their playing standard or competitive level.”

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