The Tasman Rugby Union (TRU) will not select representative teams in the under-15 grade and below this season.
Tasman has previously fielded teams, representing sub-unions Marlborough and Nelson Bays, from under-11 to under-16.
However, there has been a growing move by New Zealand’s provincial rugby unions away from age grade representative competitions for teams under-15 and below. Now the TRU have also decided to do away with those teams and institute a more inclusive programme.
In a press release the TRU said they, “conducted qualitative and quantitative research among its stakeholders – clubs, participants and parents – to determine the most appropriate age to start a representative programme, and what activities or development opportunities be put in place in the event the programme is reduced”.
“It was the position of the TRU board and staff during these discussions that any replacement programme be better than what is currently offered.”
Consequently, the TRU have decided to replace the current age grade representative programme with age grade player development sessions for all participants [in the various age grades].
Called Mako Rugby Player Development Sessions, these will be hosted at central venues allowing all players, coaches and parents to participate on site together.
TRU Community Rugby staff and external resource coaches, including Mako senior players, will be available to support the delivery. All attending players will receive coaching in the “Mako Five” fundamental skill sets as well as position and skill-specific training.
The first sessions will be held on Sunday, July 28 in Blenheim and Nelson and will be attended by Mitre 10 Cup men and Farah Palmer Cup women Mako players.
Marlborough and Nelson Bays representative age group rugby will this season begin at under-16 level. Under-15 players will be eligible to trial for these teams.
The annual under-52kg primary school tournament will still be contested.
TRU CEO Tony Lewis said “We didn’t want to rush into our decision and listening to our stakeholders was key to the process.
“We’re pleased to have got to a point where all participants will benefit from our new programmes, not a selected few. The board is excited that we will now be upskilling all age grade rugby participants.”
Tasman’s call follows the example of North Harbour, who raised eyebrows among rugby traditionalists earlier this year when they announced they were no longer sending teams to the famous Roller Mills tournament.
The Otago and Southland unions also announced last month they were discontinuing junior rep rugby.