RFL’s seven point plan to deliver international success

We felt as this was of interest to all in the sport we would take the information released today Wednesday 8th April 09, verbatim and so it follows:

The RFL today unveiled a seven point plan, centred around widening the talent pool, world class coaching and much improved athlete preparation, that it believes will deliver international success in the future.

The RFLC

The points aim to act as solutions to a number of issues raised by the review into England’s performance at last year’s World Cup in Australia.

Part of the review which was led by the RFL involved an independent consultant seeking confidential feedback from members of last year’s World Cup squad and staff, former players and experts.

In summary, the review found:
• Players said they did not perform to their full ability
• Although there were different social groups the players said these did not affect team performance
• Players and coaching staff felt they needed more time together on the training field in advance of the tournament
• Injuries pre-tour affected the balance of the squad
• Players recognised a greater need for emphasis on sports science
• Rule interpretations, which were only agreed the week before the tournament, were a factor
• Preparation and logistics were very good

Richard Lewis, the RFL’s Chairman, said: “The review has been comprehensive and our aim was not just to fully understand the problems from the World Cup but also develop the solutions.

“The World Cup review has coincided with a separate project which started last June into the RFL’s player production strategies. The findings of both have helped us to shape our seven point plan to deliver international success which will involve both the RFL and clubs working together to benefit the national side.”

The seven points proposed by the RFL to deliver future international success are as follows:

1. Elite Training Squad
The Review highlighted the need for the England team to spend more time together during the season and also before international matches to help develop tactics and systems of play.

Going forward, the RFL will name a group of between 25 and 30 elite players each year, who with the agreement of clubs, will benefit from access to world leading facilities, more training time together during the season and before international matches, individualised player development plans and improved sports science.

2. World Class Athlete Preparation
Under proposals agreed by clubs in April, members of the Elite Training Squad will benefit from better sports science and medicine each year. This will include players being screened and monitored at least four times a year by a national team of sports science practitioner’s and players benefiting from individualised performance plans.

The RFL is also looking to explore partnerships with the English Institute of Sport and other partners such as Carnegie to access further world class sports science and facilities.

In the next few weeks the RFL will also be appointing a Head of Human Performance who will be responsible for delivering cutting edge support programmes for athletes through the application of sports science, strength and conditioning, and medicine.

The Head of Human Performance will also be responsible for research and development and working with engage Super League clubs to develop sports science programmes.

Longer term the RFL is working with clubs on proposals that could see longer pre-seasons for international players and a limit to the number of games top players can take part in.

3. England ‘A’/U20
For England to be more competitive at international level there needs to be an increase in the number of players who have experienced the intensity of international Rugby League and the challenges of a touring environment.

As a result, the RFL is looking to develop a second England team to play a number of fixtures each year including tours abroad.

Made up of players not selected for the full national squad, the side will predominantly be made up of young players who have graduated from the England Academy set-up and the aim will be to prepare players who are four years from world class standard.

There will be targeted development of players, coaches and practitioner’s in order to provide some succession planning.

4. England Academy U18/U16
In addition to naming an Elite Training Squad each year, the RFL will also name an Elite Development Squad for under 16’s and under 18’s with about 50 players in each squad.

Once identified, these players will benefit from central support and monitoring as well as development programmes that will be delivered by clubs.

The two sides will play regular international fixtures each season in order to give the players greater experience of intense elite competition. They will also tour so that players get use to spending time away from home at the end of a season.

By bringing the best players together more frequently at U16, U18, U20, England A and Elite Training Squad level it will aid team cohesion and ensure that players are used to other players styles of play over a period of time.

Two full-time England Academy coaches will also be appointed and there will be a key focus on the development of players in key positions.

5. Revised RFL Player Development Pathway
To improve the development of quality players in Rugby League, the RFL and clubs have agreed a revised Player Development Pathway based upon current best practice and evidence from research in talent development.

The key changes to the system are as follows:
• Talent Development Groups to replace scholarships at 12-15 years
• Scholarships to commence at 15 years not 13 years
• An enhanced focus upon player development at younger ages as research indicates too much competition results in a drop off in skills levels
• Players to sign professional one year later at under 17 in order to tie in with education
• Academy to focus on 17 to 20 years, resulting in no more reserves
• Introduction of Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence to Academy or alternative education provision
• Dual registration

The RFL is also developing a ‘National Curriculum’ style player development model, based on best practice and research that will underline what a player should be receiving at each stage of their development.

6. Coach Development Programme
Critical to the success of the new Pathway will be the recruitment and continuous development of a highly skilled coaching workforce.

With funding from the Whole Sport Plan there will be greater attention paid to the education and development of coaches, especially those with a responsibility for talent.

Working to the UK Coaching Framework the RFL is looking to recruit and develop specific coaches in community Rugby League, Talent Development and Identification as well coaches who specialise in young players.

7. International and Competition Structure
The RFL will be seeking discussions with the RLIF ahead of future international competitions regarding match officials and rule interpretations.

Jon Roberts, the RFL’s Coaching and Performance Director, said: “The overall aim of the seven point plan is to produce a wider pool of better prepared international quality players then ever before.

“With that wider pool of talent it is important that they benefit from more time together at international level to develop a greater understanding of each other and systems of play. It is also vital that they benefit from world class coaching, better preparation and also get the opportunity to tour so that the next time a major competition is held overseas it is not alien to the players.”