WITH new academies in the planning and more young talent being taken on by Glasgow and Edinburgh, there is excitement around the naming of a 30-strong regional academy in Scottish rugby this week.
The Scottish game has continued to assess and review its development system and, while the system itself has been proven to be good at hot-housing the country’s leading rugby talent, it has been stymied by the lack of regular game-time for players.
That is changing, with more efforts this season to ensure Scotland’s leading young players are given opportunities to remain part of the club game, if not stepping into the pro squads, as some in the west of Scotland are doing this week with Glasgow.
The SRU’s 2013-14 regional academy, supported by sportscotland, aims to ensure that the next tranche of talent not yet in the Edinburgh and Glasgow system continue to be professionally developed. It will feature 30 players from Scotland’s four age-grade teams, from under-16 to under-20 levels, with coaches at all levels involved in the process of judging performances in club and schools rugby alongside international form.
When all 30 return to their schools and clubs, 17 players will be spread across the East regions of Edinburgh, East Lothian and the Borders, including three boys from south of the border, six based in the West region and seven players in the Caledonia region.
The SRU’s senior regional academy manager, Grant McKelvey, said: “We have been through a rigorous selection process and have brought together a strong group of players for this season’s regional academy programme.
“For the first time, we have three exiles who have come north of the border to forward their rugby career. They are Grant McConnell, Robbie Tait and Ben Vellacot, who will be involved with three of the clubs in the capital.
“All home-based players are currently going through our national regional academy pre-season programme in July and August and we look forward to working with the players and their respective school and club coaches throughout the year.
“Our aim is to develop each individual to be in a position, hopefully, to contend for elite development contracts with our two pro-teams in the future.”
Regional academy players will play the majority of their rugby with clubs and schools.
The chosen ones
2013-14 Regional Academy Players (supported by sportscotland Institute of Sport):
Stephen Ainslie (Loretto School/Berwick)
Lyall Archer (Highland)
Chris Barnes (Glasgow Hawks)
Jamie Bhatti (Stirling County)
Scott Burnside (Heriot’s)
Lewis Carmichael (Edinburgh Accies)
James Couper (GHA)
Scott Cummings (Kelvinside Academy/Glasgow Hawks)
Cameron Fenton (Strathallan School/Howe of Fife)
Hugh Fraser (Merchiston Castle School)
George Horne (Currie)
Damien Hoyland (Melrose)
Ben Johnston (Marr)
Chris Jollands (High School of Dundee)
Jake Kerr (George Watson’s College)
Karl Main (Currie)
James Malcolm (Ayr)
Grant McConnell (Currie)
Andrew McWilliam (Currie)
Saul Melvin-Farr (Edinburgh Academy)
Zach Mercer (Williamwood High School)
Ally Miller (George Watson’s College)
Robbie Nairn (Currie High School/Currie)
Angus Neilson (The Glasgow Academy/Glasgow Hawks)
Angus Rennie (Aberdeen Grammar)
Jamie Ritchie (Strathallan School/Howe of Fife)
Robbie Tait (Heriot’s)
Richard Taylor (Loretto School/Melrose)
Cameron Turner (Aberdeen Grammar)
Ben Vellacot (Edinburgh Accies)