Secondary school rugby under review

Otago Boys' High School flanker Josiah Lesa fends off Southland Boys' High School centre Junior...
Otago Boys' High School flanker Josiah Lesa fends off Southland Boys' High School centre Junior Lafoga during a recent interschool match. Photo: Gregor Richardson
New Zealand Rugby is conducting a review of its secondary school operations and is seeking submissions from the rugby community.

An independent project team, made up of representatives from across the sport, will consult with schools, clubs and provincial unions as part of the process.

NZR's head of participation and development Steve Lancaster said it was part of committing to deliver a world-leading secondary school system. Stakeholders can present their views online.

"Retaining teenagers is a challenge for us," he said.

"There is work to be done by everyone in the rugby community to ensure they are provided with open, inclusive and fun environments and formats of the game that are relevant."

Lancaster said a key driver of the review was to ensure a successful model at that level of the sport.

"Performance rugby is an increasingly important area of secondary school sport in New Zealand and we are producing fantastic rugby players through our system. Finding a healthy balance in this environment is important and a growing challenge.

"Of equal importance is the participation side of school rugby and how we provide teenagers with enjoyable experiences that carry long after their school years."

Lancaster said the review was timely, given the growth in women's and girls' rugby and the need to manage and enhance that growth.

"There's a need to ensure sustainable competitions and pathways are in place for girls' rugby in schools.

"The review will also look at how the 2017 respect and responsibility review can be implemented in secondary school rugby."

The terms of reference mention addressing the "high rate of drop out" during secondary school years and the "low conversion rate" through to club level.

The review wants to address the following:

1. Who is responsible for the governance of secondary school rugby?

2. How do they best align with provincials unions?

3. What unique skills are required to coach teenage rugby players?

4. What influence are player agents having in the environment?

5. What is the role of "winning"?

6. What impact is the broadcasting of secondary school rugby having?

7. What is the role of a high-performance pathways and the dominating practices (poaching, enticing) of the 'rugby' schools?

8. How to build rugby programmes for girls in either co-ed or 'girls only' schools?

A draft report for dissemination and consultation is expected between July and September.

A forum for discussion on options will be held across October and November, with a final report due in December for NZR board consideration.

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