Burnell hails regional development structure
Amongst the intertwining pathways that young rugby players from the Valleys can follow to senior level is the Cardiff Blues age grade system, one that according to Pontypridd Director of Rugby Justin Burnell, can serve the club well.
The success of the current Blues under 18 squad offers a good deal of hope for the future, the squad leading the way in the regional championship and having this week secured an emphatic 7pts to 48 victory away at the Scarlets.
Burnell was there at Parc y Scarlets to assess the game, and cast an eye on players that he already knows well as coach of Pontypridd Schools. The majority of the squad had progressed via the Dewar Shield tournament at under 15 level, where foundations are firmly put in place, representing Pontypridd, Rhondda, Cynon Valley or South Powys Schools, with a number of squad members also having represented Coleg y Cymoedd in the WRU Schools & Colleges final the previous week.
“The Cardiff Blues age grade system is a great showpiece for the young talent emerging from the valleys communities” said Burnell.
“A number of the players on show this week had come up through the schools system and the progress that they are making is positive. Some will hopefully step up through the academy to fully professional level, others will be given an opportunity at Premiership level and Pontypridd can certainly benefit from that.
“The key word is development, and through the Valleys Initiative and the Cardiff Blues age grade system, these youngsters are being given every opportunity of reaching maturity as rugby players.
“We are already seeing a regional youngster like Mason Grady at seventeen years of age establishing himself with Pontypridd, whilst other academy players such as Jamie Hill, Ben Warren and Alun Lawrence have also been prominent for us this season.”
It is testament to the great links and relationships with Cardiff Blues, USW, Coleg y Cymoedd and Dewar Shield programmes that Pontypridd RFC can look forward to a bright future.