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Poach eggs-not players!

Poaching by super clubs will kill the community game in our area.

Over the past year, our club has had to stand by and watch as a “super team” has come shopping and poached one of our star players mid-season. The approach was made directly from the club to the young player, aged 15. Whilst we jumped up and down and cried foul, the RFU in their guise both locally and centrally have either no powers to deal with this situation or have chosen to not use any power that they may have.

The impact at our club has been great. The side that saw this player as their ‘rock’ has lost two players since the player was poached and is now stumbling week on week to field a team. If the team folds, all those players may be lost to the game and the club will lose an important income stream. In these times, if we lose one or two youth teams things start to get shaky quite quickly for the club.

The RFU claim that players should be allowed to develop to the best of their ability and this includes working with better coaches. The club wholly supports this and has actively worked with other clubs where this has been to the benefit of a player. This has been done in a way that the whole team can see the positive side of such a move. But does better coaching in youth rugby involve going shopping and bringing new players in over those who come to training week in and week out? What happens to that player who is now not ‘good enough’ in comparison to the newly recruited players? Does the better coach continue to develop him or is he lost to the game and disillusioned with coaches in general?

Our club has submitted complaints to the RFU and an investigation was, we were told, undertaken. However, no one has actually been questioned – not the club, the age group coaches, the youth chair or indeed anyone else at the club. The defence the other club offered was they had spoken to the coach and he has said that he had done nothing wrong.

The result of all of this is that our club is now facing the stark possibility of losing an age group, which has a number of consequences:

  • Some players may move to keep playing rugby;
  • Some may not and stop playing altogether;
  • The coaches (who are qualified) may also walk away;
  • The club loses an income stream; and
  • The other clubs in the area have one less team to play against.

At the other club there is at least one boy who is being pushed to the sidelines. The rest of the squad is being coached on a win at all costs mentality. They may also be building themselves up for a fall. If these players are as good as the club thinks they are they will be snapped up by more professional units and these boys will never play for that teams’ senior sides.

Our club has taken the decision to not make fixtures with the club who poached their player. Petty maybe, but the only form of protest the club had left.

In not taking any action the RFU has demoralised a number of willing volunteers, not just involved in running that club, but who also worked coaching county sides and in the administrative side of the CB.

Is this the way development of youth rugby should be undertaken?

Please do let me know your thoughts below.

About spike

Level 2 coach, referee, Tigers supporter and full time rugby nut. Coached for over 15 years across squads from U6s to seniors, club sides as well as representative teams. View all posts by spike

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