The Royal Air Force has launched its three-year, £200,000 sponsorship of the WRU Youth League, now known as the RAF Careers Youth League, at the WRU Indoor training centre, Vale of Glamorgan resort with the support of Tom Shanklin.
The new sponsorship will provide support to thousands of Youth League players across Wales and offer the opportunity for young hopefuls to learn alongside Wales and Cardiff Blues centre Tom Shanklin.
As part of the sponsorship, Shanklin will run the RAF Careers Training Clinics throughout the year. The Clinics will give Youth League players the opportunity to receive coaching from the Grand Slam winner and learn valuable teamwork and communication skills from RAF personnel.
Over 5000 16 19 year olds in Wales are registered WRU Youth players, a number which has increased significantly since the WRU took over the running of the League four seasons ago, with 194 teams registered, compared to 132 in 2004.
Youth rugby is a vital stepping stone for almost every senior rugby player in Wales. Along with providing a competitive environment for future professional rugby players (see below for former youth clubs of Wales team that played South Africa in June) youth teams also provide a vital conveyor belt of players for the first and second teams of community rugby clubs all over Wales.
Shanklin said: Youth rugby is a vital step on the ladder for all young rugby players. It is while playing with your friends and peers in a club environment that you learn the tricks of the trade that set you up for your future rugby career at whatever level. Im sure the support of the RAF will enable many young rugby players to achieve their potential, both on the rugby field and off it through passing on important life skills such as teamwork and self-discipline.
Captain Bruce, Head of Recruiting for the RAF, and a keen rugby fan himself, said: The Royal Air Force is proud to provide support to thousands of young players through its relationship with the Welsh Rugby Union and sponsorship of the RAF Careers Youth League. The qualities of drive, dedication and discipline, that are commonly associated with Wales national sport, are exactly what we look for in potential recruits.
Reigning champions of the WRU Youth League, Bonymaen Youth, were present at the launch took part in a training session with Shanklin and Glamorgan Wanderers head coach and Blues regional community manager Richard Hodges.
WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis said: Youth rugby, and the community game as a whole is a key priority for us at this time and we are delighted to have the RAF on board to assist the hard work being done in that area.
Youth rugby is the vital link between junior teams and senior club rugby. The increasing numbers of boys playing at junior level will only benefit the future of club rugby if they play the game at Youth level.
It is fantastic for youth players to have the chance to train and interact with a role model like Tom Shanklin, Im sure his presence on the RAF camps will serve as an inspiration to another generation of future Welsh internationals.
The WRU Youth League is made up of 28 Divisions in which 194 club teams play each week. Players are aged between 16 19 years.
- Wales team v South Africa, June 14 2008 with youth teams:
James Hook (Aberavon Youth); Mark Jones (Builth Wells Youth), Tom Shanklin (London Welsh Youth), Jamie Roberts (Runmey Youth), Shane Williams (Amman United); Stephen Jones (Carmarthen Quins Youth), Gareth Cooper (Pencoed Youth); Gethin Jenkins (Pontypridd Youth), Richard Hibbard (Taibach Youth), Rhys Thomas (Newport Youth), Ian Gough (Cwmbran Youth), Alun Wyn Jones (no youth club, Llandovery College), Ryan Jones (capt, Risca Youth), Jonathan Thomas (Pembroke Youth), Gareth Delve (Rumney Youth, Rhiwbina Youth).
Replacements: T Rhys Thomas (Abercynon), Duncan Jones (Neath Athletic), Ian Evans (Abercwmboi), Dafydd Jones (Aberaeron), Warren Fury (Dunvant), Andrew Bishop (Treorchy), Tom James (Merthyr Tydfil)