AYR Rugby Club have launched an ambitious new academy programme in order to play their part in improving the development of young rugby players in Scotland.
The SRU have been striving in recent years to find a better academy model, switching from local area academies to national, centralised squads and pro team squads, but all the time without seriously engaging the leading clubs in the game. The upshot is that teenagers in Scotland continue to struggle for quality competition and development before suddenly being exposed to professional rugby at 19 and 20.
In 2012, plans for ten new academies linked to the Premiership’s top clubs were drawn up, but they have been widely criticised by clubs outside the elite as likely to draw all the young talent from across the country to clubs currently in the top division and ensure they remain at the top in perpetuity. The SRU are now looking to drive forward a new system, expected to centre on regional academies which will harness the top talent in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Caledonia and the Borders, but at arms length from clubs, and push the youngsters more quickly and effectively through to a professional standard.
But Ayr have decided to move ahead with their own initiative and have appointed former Glasgow pro Colin White as academy manager. A board of directors – club president Billy McHarg, director of rugby Jock Craig, youth convener Euan Grant and 1st XV Coaches Kenny Murray and Peter Laverie – has also been formed to oversee the academy set-up.
White explained: “The programme of the academy is to develop Ayr Rugby Club so it continues to be at the forefront of the Scottish club game. With the large group of talent currently at Ayr at all age grades the club needs to be assisting in whatever way possible to maximise the current pool of talent. The Academy will help to reinforce the philosophy of doing more for the young talent at the club.
“The programmes for each player are individual so that more time and care is taken over players to cater more from their specific needs. Throughout the season there will be individual analysis and specific feedback which will allow the players to gain more of an insight into how to progress.”
White stressed that it is not a professional academy, so players will continue in studies or work. Players selected will actually have to pay £10 per week for the 40-week annual programme but their other commitments will be fully integrated with the academy’s demands.
White added: “The purpose of the academy is to develop our best talent within the Ayr Rugby Club youth section to play for Ayr and hopefully beyond.
“Looking long-term, Scottish Rugby [SRU] may look more to clubs to help to be a part of talent development as the current Scottish Academy system may shift to the grassroots. [But] Ayr, being one of the best clubs in Scotland, is seeking to be ahead of the wave in this aspect.”