Junior players flock to rugby masterclass

Cromwell's Josh Ede (11) spots the Ranfurly Shield at the junior rugby masterclass session in...
Cromwell's Josh Ede (11) spots the Ranfurly Shield at the junior rugby masterclass session in Clyde yesterday, alongside ORFU coach development officers Seilala Mapusua (left) and Aaron Callaghan. PHOTO: ADAM BURNS
Otago Rugby's new development programme had its first junior session in Clyde yesterday, as administrators explore how the game is preserved at the grass roots.

More than 100 year 8 pupils from Central Junior Rugby clubs tore into action at a junior rugby masterclass development session and the popularity of the get-together ensured a "big tick" from coaching staff.

It was the first of six winter sessions the Otago Rugby Union is running through the wider region.

The model is a reaction to the withdrawal of junior representative teams from under-14 and below throughout the South Island. The majority of the North Island has also followed suit.

Earlier this year, New Zealand Rugby expressed doubts over the value junior rep rugby had, following a move by the North Harbour Rugby Union to cancel its junior rep model.

Yesterday's sessions, which focused on "core fundamental skills" such as catching and passing, tackle technique and contact skills, were led by union coaching development officers Aaron Callaghan and Seilala Mapusua and a group of club coaches.

Callaghan said it was important the union moved with the times considering there had been a global downturn of numbers participating in junior sport.

"We feel it's giving our players the best opportunity to maximise their potential and supporting development, love and passion for the game.

"Hopefully, in 10 to 20 years time, they're still involved."

Last week, Callaghan was part of an advisory group which engaged in talks concerning development and pathways at New Zealand Rugby headquarters in Wellington. He said yesterday's sessions were part of a bigger picture.

"I think there is an understanding from New Zealand Rugby that we need change within the grass roots in order for the All Blacks to remain successful."

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