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NZ Rugby sees little value in under-14 rep games

Radio Sport ,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 26 February 2019, 12:57PM
North Harbour Rugby has cancelled their junior reps team. (Photo / NZ Herald)

New Zealand Rugby has sent a strong message to its provincial unions and franchises, saying it sees little value in representative rugby at under-14 level and below.

In a document sent to provincial, school, regional and Super Rugby bosses, the national body outlined its position on the merits of age-group rugby.

It comes after Auckland rugby club North Harbour axed its junior reps team, in a bid to focus more on participation and less on performance.

It's the first provincial union to make such a move, but it might not be the last.

The letter to the country's rugby administrators, written by head of participation and development Steve Lancaster, made it clear that New Zealand Rugby feel rep rugby at a junior level was potentially counterproductive.

"We do not see value in representative programmes at under-14 and below in relation to both identifying those players likely to go on to the elite level and encouraging the largest pool of players who may have the ability to play at the elite level to stay in the game," Lancaster wrote.

He told Radio Sport Breakfast that the policy could work for other clubs.

"We're talking at a national level, with all of our unions, and others are certainly asking the same questions presently about the right time for players to go into representative programmes and how that impacts on participation." 

Lancaster does not want to speculate on the future of the Roller Mills tournament, but thinks that there could be changes.

"[North Harbour] aren't saying the competition itself is problematic, but some of the behaviours around it need some work."

He also does not want to speculate on how other provincial competitions will follow.

Lancaster said participation drop off is a huge concern to them and they have their own ideas, to be released soon, as how to arrest the slide. They are aware however of how it is affecting kids.

"We know kids play sport to have fun, they like to play with their mates. One of the things we are seeing very clearly is this whole selection and deselection at an early age is impacting their enjoyment and their desire to play in the game."

He says that they don't see a lot of value in representative programs for under-14s, and whether it has a value for under-16s is something they will look into. 

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