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School recruiting processes have led to reduced player numbers, rugby report finds

An independent review into secondary schools rugby in New Zealand has found the recruiting processes used by some schools are leading to reduced playing numbers at that level.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) on Tuesday confirmed the review commissioned in June last year "to better understand the various factors affecting the New Zealand secondary school rugby environment" had been completed.

It comes after 11 Auckland schools last month said they would not play against St Kentigern College first 15 this year because of their recruitment policy and practices.

NZR said they would begin implementing the recommendations of the review report this month, with six of the 31 recommendations made taking priority during the next 12 to 15 months.

Those six recommendations include recruiting a NZR manager of secondary schools rugby, developing a NZR strategy for secondary schools rugby and reviewing the governance of the game at secondary school level.

All of those could help to resolve the issues around recruiting, which moved into the spotlight after the boycott threat towards St Kentigern.

An investigation into complaints from St Kentigern about other schools is being undertaken by an independent panel.

"In general, they view the pooling of talent into a few strong rugby schools as a significant factor in the decrease of numbers playing the game because of flow on effects of, for example uneven competitions," the report said.

"There is widespread concern over the impacts of player recruitment into selected schools. Some of these consequences may be unintended.

"The perceptions that players are being over-trained, have a sense of entitlement and are denied other sporting opportunities are widely expressed.

"Performance rugby programmes in schools need to consider the well-being and holistic development of all participants.

"Parents are acknowledged as being positive contributors to rugby programmes in schools, but may not be aware of the wider impacts of choosing a school for rugby reasons."

The report also said recruiting was having an impact on playing numbers at secondary school level.

Since 2013, the number of boys and girls secondary school teams in the Auckland Rugby catchment had fallen from 225 to just 181 last year.

In the North Harbour region, team numbers had fallen from 92 in 2014 to 64 in 2018.

NZR chief rugby officer Nigel Cass said they welcomed the recommendations of the review, which included more than 500 people taking part in online surveys.

"Secondary school rugby is a vital part of our game. For many players it's where they cemented lifelong friendships and wearing their high school's colours is a cherished memory.

"The report confirmed there are a lot of passionate people involved in the game and great rugby programmes happening all over the country.

"But it also found there's work to be done and helped us pinpoint the areas that require our focus."

- RNZ

Dejected St Kents players.
St Kentigern College v St Peters. First XV schools semi-final rugby union. Auckland, New Zealand. Saturday 11 August 2018. © Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.co.nz
St Kents 1st XV rugby players after their semi-final loss against St Peters College. Source: Photosport


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