OVERALL DEVELOPMENT APPROACH
Oxfordshire RFU has in recent seasons met with unprecedented success in developing our players to representative level. This has been no accident and is testimony to the planned player development approach created for our aspiring talent. The Oxfordshire pathway consists of two pyramids – 13 to 16 age brackets and then U17 – U20 age groupings.
Dealing with the former first, at this age games we arrange games as an Oxtail / Alliance Selection. At Under 13 have Alliance Days designed to invite some 45 players to play live matches against suitable opponents. It is very much 'turn up and go play with a smile on your face rugby'.
Alliance Teams at U13 are invitation sides with players drawn from those who attended the assessments as well as players recommended to us by schools, clubs, referees, scouts etc. We have no prior knowledge of the players other than their assessment performance or recommendation so selection is 'blind' without reference to club or school. This gives us a mixed ability, broad, open and flexible base to assess player’s playing ability.
The Oxtail concept kicks in at U14 and U15 when a series of games are played against other county Development or County Squads. Here players are rotated as far as possible from our depth chart in an effort to evaluate players in a playing environment alongside their progression at skill development sessions
In both cases there is NO game preparation except for a small and necessary pre match prep time - the hour ahead of the kick off. Some might wonder about the wisdom of this - we would say - enjoy the opportunity of seeing the lads just ‘rock up and play’ without the onerous, thunderous and oppressive constraint of having to win.
The lads are asked to play with the ball, play for space and importantly to treat every possession as a scoring opportunity – an expression of expansive rugby allowing the lads to play with vision and enthusiasm rather than the claustrophobia of a win mentality.
Our evaluation criteria sees them as players, their effectiveness with the ball and use of space, rather than assessing their performance on positional criteria. Players may well be required to play out of their normal club / school position. This emphasizes the games are about expressing player’s skill rather than worrying overly about the technical aspects of positional play.
U17 TO U20 DEVELOPMENT
At U17 the most able of our U16 year olds join the natural U17’s post Christmas of any given season to form an U17 squad who play 2 matches to blood them into the more adult approach and physicality of U18 rugby. The best then join the U18 programme in the following September as they vie with others to become part of the U18 pathway match squad that could lead to the England 18 group.
With all players tracked we offer a final vibrant environment of U20 County rugby when many return from university to have a final County hurrah and a shot at the England Counties selection process.
PLAY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME (PDP) RATIONALE
The objective is to develop and deliver generations of well tutored and skilled rugby players, some of whom will go on to play international rugby and become full-time professional players; some of whom will play in the Community Game, driving up coaching standards and skill levels throughout the sport in our country.
The PDP is about elite rugby. Only the top players in each age group, who demonstrate the potential to go on and play at the highest level will be selected for the programme each year.
The PDP programme:-
Aims to identify and develop young players who have the potential to play at the higher levels of the game in England
Is a CB run programme within a national framework
Selects players / athletes using consistent national criteria
Should develop individual core technical skills together with tactical appreciation of the game
Must not be used for CB match preparation
For more information, please contact Kevin Robinson (Player Development Director, Oxfordshire RFU)
Player Development Officer
Oxfordshire is supported by one of the England Rugby Player Development Officers, Tony Robinson