Male Performance Pathway Round Table – Part Two: quotas, coaching and finding the right Performance Director

“This will take generations to improve things. There's no quick fix in terms of performance."

David Barnes, Graeme Thompson, Ruaridh Jackson, Alan Lorimer and Alistair Gray were brilliantly hosted at The Duke's Umbrella on Argyle Street in Glasgow when they met to discuss the male performance pathway. John Fletcher - Scottish Rugby's Head of Pathways and Elite Coach Development - also joined the conversation. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
David Barnes, Graeme Thompson, Ruaridh Jackson, Alan Lorimer and Alistair Gray were brilliantly hosted at The Duke's Umbrella on Argyle Street in Glasgow when they met to discuss the male performance pathway. John Fletcher - Scottish Rugby's Head of Pathways and Elite Coach Development - also joined the conversation. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

PART ONE of the first ever TOL Round Table, hosted at The Duke’s Umbrella on Argyle Street in Glasgow, was published yesterday featuring a wide-ranging discussion which covered – among other things – initial reactions to the recent update from the Scottish Rugby Male Performance Pathway review, the challenges facing youth and schools rugby, the minefield of talent ID, the potential and pitfalls of the proposed professional ‘A’  team programme, the role of the club game going forward, lessons from our European rivals (particularly Ireland and Italy) and the importance of winning in the player development process.

To catch up on port one of TOL’s Males Performance Pathway Round Table click HERE.

In the second and final instalment of the discussion, our panel look at pro team quotas, the importance of  coaching, finding a strategically-minded Performance Director and the value of communication.


The guests –

Graeme Thompson [GT]: Former Performance Director for the Rugby Football League, British Water Polo and British Curling/Wheelchair Curling. Ex Chair of International Rugby League, the world governing body. Played rugby union for Watsonians and West of Scotland.

 


Alistair Gray [AG]: Founder Director of ‘Renaissance & Co’ strategic management consultancy with over 40-years of experience working with leading European PLCs and sports bodies. Former Chair of British Aquatics, British Basketball, Scottish Hockey and other international hockey bodies. Founding Chair of the Scottish Institute of Sport.
Author of ‘The Game Changer’ published by Routledge in 2019, highlighting how organisations in business and sport have not only improved performance, but also changed the game in their industry.
Has consulted widely, especially at the performance end of team sports. Clients include The English, Scottish and Irish Football Associations, Irish and English Rugby Unions and English Rugby League. Chair of the SFA’s ‘Project Brave’ working group which initiated a radical overhaul of the academy set-up in Scottish football. He has consulted widely in Ireland including the strategy for the Irish Institute of Sport, the first development plan for Irish Rugby and several reviews of Ireland’s performance following the Rugby World Cups over the last 20 years. Managing director of Genesis, the consulting firm that authored a wide-ranging review of Scottish rugby in 2003.

Ruaridh Jackson [RJ]: Former Glasgow Warriors, Harlequins, Wasps and 33-times capped Scotland stand-off/full-back. Remains actively involved with the sport as a coach at Glasgow Academicals in National One. Came through Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen.


Alan Lorimer [AL]: A former track and field athlete of distinction, with over 40-years under his belt reporting on Scottish rugby for various local and national titles, with a specialist interest in the schools and youth game where he is universally respected for his deep knowledge and balanced opinions.

One of the original TOL reporters, mainly covering the Premiership and age-grade rugby.

 


John Fletcher [JF]: Scottish Rugby’s Head of Pathways and Elite Coach Development since December 2021. Previously spent a decade as England Rugby Head of Player Development Pathway between 2008 and 2018, and six years at Newcastle Falcons as academy manager then Director of Rugby between 2002 and 2008. Played centre for Tynedale, Northampton, Newcastle Gosforth and England A.

Appearing via Zoom for one night only!


The host –

David Barnes [DB]: Failed club player with Hawick, Edinburgh Accies and Trinity Accies. Freelance rugby journalist since 2004. Owner and editor of The Offside Line since 2016.

 

 


The venue –

The Duke’s Umbrella on Argyle Street in Glasgow offers creative takes on pub classics, including vegan versions, showcased in old-fashioned surroundings.  The Duke’s menus encompass an array of gastro-pub classics, from lunch to Sunday roast, fish and chips to sausage and mash.


Pro team quotas

DB: “The recent Scottish Rugby Male Performance Pathway Review update revealed that a new ‘Professional Game Agreement’ is to be created to ensure minimum numbers of Scottish Qualified players in Scotland’s two professional team squads. I don’t think we know at this point what exactly that will look like, but do we welcome the principle?

“And, also, what are the roles of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Is it to win the URC? Is it to be competing for silverware? Or is it just about having teams that are geared towards sustaining the national team?

AG: “We faced the same thing in football, and the goal which they eventually all bought into was to produce more better international players, playing more better football, more often. And everything was aligned towards that.

“Even Celtic and Rangers, who are leagues apart in terms of income and everything else, bought into this notion of being rewarded for producing players for underage Scottish teams and so on.”

DB: “And if you get that right, presumably the hope is that feeds the other, which is you become successful with a different make-up of your squad – with more Scots qualified players.


Male Performance Pathway Round Table Part One: talent ID and what does winning look like?

Former Scotland under-20 lock Williamson backs pathway programme but warns some players need longer to be ready

Opinion: ‘The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win’


GT: “I don’t think you have to choose because Leinster and Ireland seem to do pretty well.

“The ironic thing here is that most sports start looking at their talent development because the first team is not doing very well. So Scottish football called in Alistair because we hadn’t been to a World Cup or the European Championships since year dot. Whereas up until about four months ago the Scotland men’s rugby team was ranked fifth in the world. So, this is driven by the Chairman John McGuigan saying he wants to see more domestic developed players.

“What could happen – and Edinburgh had a go at this – is we see 16, 17 and 18-year-old South African players appearing so that we can say they’re domestically developed. You say ‘no’, but I’ve had arguments in rugby league where you’ve got to be home trained and we’ve had lawyers involved because we can’t have restraint of trade, and clubs will find a way to get around it. Now the unique situation here is, the governing body might set the rules and then try to get around their own rules to meet the outcomes they want.

“So, I think it’s about whatever you put into a system. If it’s better goes into the system, you’ll get better outcomes. So I don’t think you have to worry too much.

“I also think there must be some fascinating discussions at the top between Gregor Townsend, Sean Everitt and Franco Smith, but that’s for them to work out. It’s certainly better than for the RFU who have to go to the clubs and negotiate a financial settlement, and Steve Borthwick has to deal with ten different club coaches who don’t give a monkeys in reality about England, although they’ll never say that publicly.

“So, I don’t worry too much at the top end of that. It’s more what you put in will decide how successful you are.”

RJ: “And I do think a successful Glasgow and Edinburgh will inspire local communities. A winning team is definitely beneficial.

“I should also say that there is a bit about this that makes me uneasy, which is judging who is Scottish enough to play for Scotland.

“Technically, I’m a foreign-born Scot. I was born in England and was there for six months because my dad was in transit with work before we came back to Scotland. So I’ve never once considered myself English, I would never have thought of playing for England, but I’m one of those statistics where people say:  ‘Look how many non-Scots play for Scotland’. You can always skew stats to support your rhetoric.

“Yes, you want Scottish players playing for Scotland, and I think we’ve maybe gone slightly too far sometimes. But, ultimately, right now Duhan is a try-machine and there can’t be that many Scottish people upset that he’s decided to play for Scotland. And he will inspire other young Scottish people because they see what he’s doing … even if I don’t think any Scottish person will ever look like Duhan van der Merwe!

DB: “I suppose the concern that I have about it, and why I welcome the fact that there’s going to be a quota, is not because of the Duhans of this world, but because too often we’re going for a journeyman 30-year-old as a ready-made solution to an immediate problem.”

 

 

GT: “If I’m Glasgow or Edinburgh and you’re saying my line-up has got to look like that, then I want a bit more control over how they [the mandated Scottish players] appear. In a manufacturing sense, I’ve got to have 15 widgets and seven of them look like this, well I want to influence the supply chain of those widgets. I’m not waiting to see if somebody else might do it – I’m not outsourcing it. And it’s not necessarily a Franco Smith problem because he’s just thinking about the next game and his next contract, it’s the strategic person, the Al Kellock or the head of youth saying: ‘I’ve got to look after this because in five years’ time we’ve got a quota to meet’.

“You could take a policy of saying: we can’t actually create the environments we require so let’s try and get all our players down into the English Premiership. I know that’s not possible because of the sort of the money that comes from the RFU that almost blocks it. But Cricket Scotland will try and place players abroad because they can’t create the environment, Scottish Hockey too, it even happens in a slightly different way in Scottish football where Billy Gilmour, one of the best youngsters of the era, left Rangers at 17 because he got paid more but also he probably thought there’s a better environment that I can go and learn in. So, SRU are quite unique because we’re trying to actually develop world class environments in Scotland.

“I mean, the Scottish women’s rugby union team are all based in England, aren’t they? I think in one recent squad there was only one playing in Scotland, and that’s understandable because these environments are moving quicker down south. So, if somebody is doing a better player development environment, then may be tempted to say: ‘Thank you very much – we’ll jump on the back of that’.

“But, of course, it does mean you are sub-contracting and you lose some control.”

Coaching essentials

GT: “John, can I ask what most excites you about the opportunity of the new strategy?”

JF: “I do like the idea of playing for your club in an ‘A’ league. I think you’re much more likely to get good interaction with the senior coaches, which is ultimately where the young players are trying to get to – they’re trying to attract the attention of the senior coaches in terms of making some judgments around where they are in their development. Although I also understand that there’s some watch-outs such as ‘A’ league rugby, as we’ve already alluded to, can sometimes get cancelled.

“I like the fact that we’re talking about investing in under-18s. I do feel as though we’re a little bit top heavy in terms of lots of conversations often go straight to the pro teams.

“I’m not saying it’s built on sand, because it’s not, but you need to be careful if you’re building your house because while you do want to put the roof on quite early, you’ve also got to make sure you have good foundations, So I am excited about the fact that we are taking time to consider what we’re going to be doing around our clubs and schools in under-18, getting the right coaches and identifying what sort of stuff are we coaching?

“Clearly that is my bias, as I have spent most of my professional life at the start of the pathway, but I do generally feel if you get the start done well then it saves you a lot of time, a lot of hassle, and probably a lot of money.

 

 

“I do think there needs to be more emphasis on coach development. We’re talking a lot about the environment, and what we also mean is the quality of the individual interaction – because we’re all people, and this is a people business.”

“It’s implicit in all of this, but it’s certainly my stated intention that I want to raise the bar, because I genuinely think coaching will get you a couple of places in any league table. So, if you’re Glasgow Warriors and you’re going to finish fourth, I think you could possibly win it through good coaching. Now, if you’re going to finish bottom through your talent pool, you’re not going to finish in the top four through a good coach, but I genuinely think it will get you two or three places.”

AL: “John, about six months ago we had a conversation after some FOSROC academy games and you said that you like the idea of the Belgian system in football, where there is an ‘inverted pyramid’ which has really top class coaches working with youngsters, because that’s what the priority should be. Do you think there’s any chance of that happening in Scotland at all?

JF: “I hope so. Some countries and sports absolutely do that. They understand the expertise needed around adolescent development, and they’ll invest appropriately, but that’s currently not the case in rugby union, certainly in Scotland.

“I think there’s a lot of coaches who would want to stay around pathway and not actually move into performance coaching, but they probably feel as though they have to follow that more traditional route.

“I definitely feel as though it’s a very enjoyable, rewarding, fulfilling place to be in pathway. But it doesn’t always pay that well!”

RJ: “With Super6 – and I’m not sure whether there was pressure there – but I don’t think enough coaches took the risk with young players. And I think that is why Super6 fell down, because every team was too intent on winning.

“Don’t get me wrong, winning is great – the Glasgow Accies guys will tell you that I’m big on winning – but I think too many teams loaded up with experienced players who had either been in and around the pro game or just old statesmen who could get the job done. And Stirling County was a prime example this year – I was happy they won it because my cousin was playing, but you’re not telling me Craig Jackson is the next talented 10 coming through Scottish rugby. And I saw him a couple of weeks and told him that!

“So, for me, especially when coaching youngsters, yes you want to instil a winning mentality and build a culture towards that, but it’s also creating a sort of fearlessness within a young coaching group who can go out there and really back players to step up. Super6 should have been incentivised on young players coming through rather than winning.”

GT: “That goes back to outsourcing your talent development to an organisation that said: ‘That’s great, but we want to win the title’.

“Between 16 to 23, technical coaching is hugely important, but you’re also taking people through a transitional period of their life when they’ve got a lot of expectation and demands on themselves, so it’s a specialism.

“In rugby league, what we noticed was that it was seen as a way into the coaching ranks so an ex-player would become the player performance manager and look after the under-18s, but they weren’t really interested, so we created a head of youth and it became – as John said there – a status. We started paying decent fees to help people invest in themselves to become a talent development coach, and that’s a point I tried to make in the article I wrote for TOL last month, that the head of youth needs to be right up at the top of Glasgow and Edinburgh senior leadership team, so they feel that they’re strategically driving something and they’ve got some coaches to deliver it to.

“I think taking somebody who has coached at the top end of professional at Glasgow and Edinburgh and then giving them a job with the under-18s and under-20 is not necessarily the right move. They’re a very good coach but that doesn’t mean they’re a good coach for the 18 and 20s, because its about handling young people. You often find that people with education backgrounds are pretty good at doing some of those roles because they think about the young person beyond this result and the next result, to: ‘Where am I trying to get you over the period of this year?’

 

The Offside Line's Round Table guests met at The Duke's Umbrella on Argyle Street in Glasgow. Image: © Craig Watson -www.craigwatson.co.uk
The Offside Line’s Round Table guests met at The Duke’s Umbrella on Argyle Street in Glasgow. Image: © Craig Watson –
www.craigwatson.co.uk

 

AG: “Do you know who you’re coaching workforce is in terms of every individual who is fully qualified? Is there an annual conference where you can bring in people from other sports? How well is continuing professional development managed within the coaching workforce?

JF: “I think it’s mixed. I think we do coach education quite well although ironically we don’t have a level four coaching qualification at the moment – that will be launched in the summer. So, people who are really ambitious around their coaching have to go somewhere else to get that level of education.

“Education is part of it, clearly. I’m not saying it’s not important, but the coach development stuff is key for me. Pretty much what is happening here with you guys would be better coach development for me – coaches just getting together, having something to eat, having a bit of a drink, talking through stuff. We clearly need to get that blended approach to coaching to improve our coaches.

“My preference as a coach developer is co-coaching. I’ve had the best results by jumping on the pitch with other coaches and just coaching together.

“So, out of the recommendations in the pathway update, coaching was quite implicit, and I think we need to elevate the coaching bit. I think it can be a competitive advantage. I said earlier that teams can move through good coaching. I think we have some really good coaches and I think we can go after it even more. It’s definitely something that I’ll be pushing around that under-18 stuff – let’s really invest in the coaches who will have a big impact, not just around the very best players who go on and play for Scotland, but players who will stay in our game and play for their club first team or second team, and be the volunteers of the future etc etc.”

Performance Director

DB: “There is a new Performance Director being recruited at the moment. What should Scottish Rugby be looking for?

GT: “Listening to John tonight just reinforces what I wrote in that article. There’s a lot of rugby union knowledge already in the SRU, so I’m not convinced that bringing in somebody else with more knowledge is necessarily the priority.

“I think it’s got to be someone who is a strategic leader because there’s people like John who clearly know what they want to do. They don’t need to be given the technicalities of coach development, the technicalities of player pathway. I think they need somebody who has got the strength of leadership to make sure that it doesn’t just go quiet after this latest review is completed.

“Sometimes governing bodies are quite keen to float under the radar but you actually need somebody who is going to come in and bang the drum – not externally but internally to start with – because there’s a change in the CEO as well, with a guy who was very commercially focussed leaving, so there’s going to be a change of dynamic there.

“I do worry about the lack of elite performance knowledge on the Boards with the non-executives, because they are important to where resources get allocated.

“I still think the SRU’s corporate governance is a minefield. It does not help clarity of vision and clarity of strategy, but it is what it is.

“John McGuigan has come out and made it clear that he wants more Scottish-qualified players at Glasgow and Edinburgh. We could actually decide that it’s okay, let’s stay fifth or sixth in the world by doing what we have been doing . But he’s come out and said that, so we’ve got to now follow that through because journalists like David will come back in a year’s time and say: ‘John, can I have an interview with you? Can I just remind you of that goal you set?’

“It’s easy to say: ‘We’ll have a real good push for the next six months or the next year, but have they got the will to prepare these kids over the next five, six, seven, eight years, by putting in the required structures and providing guys like John with more resource? And then, when John come back to them next year and says: ‘We’re still on track but I need a bit more capacity’, are we going to actually make this happen?

“Too often we pin credibility on whether they played at the top level but ex-players and ex-head coaches are not often the right people to drive what happens next on youth development because they’re only interested in the next game? It needs to be strategic. I would go outside of rugby union.”

 

 

AG: “British Swimming was a good example. They had an Australian sport scientist in Michael Scott leading the team through to the London Olympics in 2012, which was seriously unsuccessful apart from Michael Jamieson and Rebecca Adlington, then after that they appointed Chris Spice, who was a hockey gold medal winning coach, performance director for British Basketball and the England Rugby Union when they won the World Cup in 2003.

“Chris changed the culture of British Swimming back to being coach-led, and he did that by influencing the swimming clubs, by influencing the Board – his influencing skills and his personality was such that he was very happy to go and speak to clubs.

“I agree with Graeme that someone who’s got those skills, and not necessarily in rugby union.”

RJ: “Out of interest, would you only pitch somebody from elite sport or could it be somebody who’s been involved in something like a schooling body or a university?

GT: “I would go for elite sport because the demands of that are unique, but I’m a great believer in transferable skills – I have to be because I was in charge of two sports which I knew nothing about in curling and water polo! Whether other people were a great believer in that is another thing!

“But I just think the person who sits above people like John is not someone who ways: ‘Listen John, I need to tell you about coach development’. It is someone who says: ‘Don’t worry John, I’m going to go and secure the budget for the next two years to make sure you can do everything you want to do in terms of your abilities to get coaches up to the standard we require’.

AG: “To empower John to do his thing, which is an altogether different skill-set.”

GT: “There’s a vast array of people who have come through Olympic and Paralympic programmes in the last 15 years, who have maybe started in their original sport but now done two or three different sports, and they know how to come in and say: ‘Okay, here’s the strategy, here’s the stakeholders, this is how it all fits together, I’ve got a plan of how I am going to influence things to make sure this strategy delivers what we believe it can deliver’.

“We’ve had a very dominant CEO from what I can see, and there is now an opportunity for performance to rise up the agenda of the things that are important. And I have a great sympathy for governing bodies because there’s an awful lot of mouths to feed and things to do. And the reality is like any organization, they prioritize.

Communication is key

AG: “If you are a Chair, or a Performance Director, or a CEO, you’ve got to get out into the sport and not just rule it from the lofty towers of Murrayfield.”

GT: “The downside is it’s easy to criticise someone by saying you don’t know our sport, so you also have to be clever as to what you claim to know and what you delegate. But with people as credible as John and other people in there, you kind of work that out. You don’t expose yourself. You actually focus on the things that you are doing well.”

AL: “If we’ve got the expertise there already, then what we’re looking for is a good manager. Is the CEO, not the big manager?”

GT: “He or she could be, but I suspect nowadays with governing bodies of this size that they’ll always …

AL: “Especially with the £10.5 million blackhole in the finances which needs addressed?”.

GT: “So, I suspect they’re still going to put a commercial bent on the Chief Executive because that is the only way you’re going to trade out of that loss.

DB: “What you’re saying is you need somebody who can go to the Chief Executive and the Board and make the case that while there is a pressing need to turn around the finances and secure Murrayfield long term, this money is worth spending right now because the danger is that if we don’t spend it and don’t hold our nerve then we don’t have a sport worth saving?”

GT: “I know one head of youth in rugby league who said: ‘The way I did it was I worked out the economic model that showed it was better to invest in the local St Helens kids than sign the next three Aussies’. So he said to himself, how do I influence these people? I can tell them how great the kids are coming through and we’re doing great coach development, but what actually gets your Chief Executive excited is that you can help him save £10 million over three years. So, you have to be smart. It’s the influencing skills.”

DB: “And you’re worried about the lack of performance rugby people or rugby people on the various Boards?

GT: “Elite sport performance knowledge – not rugby knowledge. Often governing bodies add in skill-sets which are not about participation and performance, but there’s other ways of doing it. During my time at UK Sport we created performance management groups, which brought in experts who sat as almost like a subcommittee.

Gareth Southgate has an FA ‘technical advisory board’, which includes – slightly controversially – David Brailsford, as well as the journalist and author Matthew Syed and someone from Cirque Soleil, who have all these different ideas about how do you develop talent.

“I also see quite a lot of insularity in the SRU. I found it astonishing that an external company had to go out and tell the SRU what their competitors were doing. That is bread and butter of a Performance director’s job, to know what your competitors are doing. And therefore, if you’re that insular, you need some help as to not just what your competitors are doing in rugby union, but what’s the best practice around the world in different sports.

“And there’s a myriad of intelligence from the Olympics and Paralympics over the last 15 years that they could be drawing from.

“The structure looks like it could be heading the right way, but there’s going to be so much need to find the very best practice, and probably on limited budgets compared to England and Ireland.”

AG: “This will take generations to improve things. There’s no quick fix in terms of performance.

 

 

JF: “The only thing I would add to that is that you clearly need some diversity around your decision-making, and if you don’t feel as though you have that in the team then you’ve got to try and create it. So, you definitely need people who are thinking differently from each other and have had different experiences. Lots and lots of sports would have gone about it in a different way. There’s advantages to having somebody who understands the sport, and there’s disadvantages of having people who don’t understand the sport.”

AL: “The elephant in the room, is we haven’t got lots of baby elephants. That’s the problem. Expanding the game, expanding the base, and how do we raise the level of the base? That’s two points that I’d be interested in, but a chat for another today.”

GT: “I’d personally like to thank John for being part of this discussion. It just reminds me that people sometimes think that people who work for the governing body wake up in the morning and try to upset people, whereas they’re actually working their backsides off and care passionately but aren’t always able to demonstrate that.

“So, just to hear you bring it to life has been just a really good reminder that the SRU gets a hard time – and sometimes they deserve it – but there’s people in there who I’m sure are deeply frustrated and perhaps now see a really good opportunity because things are hopefully going to change.”

JF: “Maybe one thing to add to that is my biggest frustration is not whether it’s criticism or praise or points of view or opinion, it’s when I don’t feel people are that well informed. I think that’s what you’re saying here: inform us of your intention and what you’re going after and then we’ll form an opinion based upon what we see and what we notice and what we hear,

“So, that’s on us and how we communicate. I think we can do that better. Everybody understands that the press will never be in the tent, but what we can do is give them access so they can make an informed opinion.”


Male Performance Pathway Round Table Part One: talent ID and what does winning look like?

About David Barnes 3891 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

8 Comments

  1. With respect, but are you not comparing apples with pears here?

    S6 is a club game, with each side putting out the strongest team they can musty focus was on winniner. They all have a full squad of experienced adult players
    and, like all clubs, their primary focus was on winning games. The idea that they could also be a development tool for the young academy boys was rather far fetched, as all but the most giftd young 18-19 year olds would struggle to win a place in any adult team.

    The proposed Pro A games sound like a more suitable platform for the Academy boys, though if they are U24 teams, the younger boys may still struggle to get enough game time and would be better off playing in the amateur game.

    Agree with you about the ageing and diminishing base of the game. This strategy is not concerned with that, it is focused solely on the U20 game and Pro academies, with a one-line reference to some more resources for U18s.

    What is needed from the SRU are similar strategy documents for the grass roots game and schools rugby, preferably with more concrete tangibles and less management speak compared to past SRU offerings!

    • It’s not a club game. It was/is semi pro with full time coaches.

      This was SR trying to do something on the cheap and still spending a lot of money. The S6 teams wouldn’t sign up to a young player development tournament. Murrayfield seemed reluctant to force selection.

      As always, differing goals result in confusion for all

  2. Love the discussion and some great points coming up, especially interesting the lessons from other sports and other country pathway approaches. Without jumping the gun, did the panel come to any specific conclusions and recommendations at the end of all this?

  3. All very interesting but one important fact is being missed. S6 did fail in giving young identified pathway players game time. But why when it was part of the elite game with coaches fully funded by the SRU. Quite simply it wasn’t managed by those within Murrayfield. Playing those players was an option without penalty if not followed.
    Why should we trust the same folk to now be properly focused
    We also now have a disconnected club game with an elderly deminishing support base
    If we think the changes will rejuvenate interest at the base unfortunately I think we are in for a bit of a reality check

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    • fielding younger players was very mixed across S6 teams. From pretty good to awful (Watsonians IMHO, but they won it). Which was a problem for sure. However, it was also something that could easily have been changed – as you say all SRU controlled – without scrapping it.
      My question is this – will it be any different in future? There is no planned game time pathway, that much is very clear. No clear higher level for younger top players. If they simply play for clubs, they may get game time. But it may or may not be 1st XV. Just like S6 teasm, clubs want to win and they will pick players to win, not simply to develop them. And the players will be picked if they are the best for their position. Just like in S6, except at a lower level of rugby. Going round in circles

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    • The super series wasn’t for the pathway players, it was for late developers, older players who were looking for a level up or younger players who had been missed by the pathway or wrongly dropped.
      It’s all well and good having a new pathway extending to age 23 but if the selection at the younger stages is not tightened up with evidence based decisions instead of what happens at the moment… then all it will do is focus on, in some cases, the wrong players, for longer.
      Should representative regional rugby be the same process as finding the best players for the Scottish pathway?
      The two are currently conflated. You can have players dropped out of the pathway by a small margin in one region who are much better than players being given contracts in other regions. So is the pathway meant to represent the four regions equally, or is it to find the best players in Scotland? Because the two don’t mix and right now that’s a point of failure.

  4. Another excellent conversation with lots to consider.

    The new CEO and Performance Director won’t have their problems to seek. Both of them creating a more collaborative culture in Scottish Rugby would be a good start.

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