Thursday at Lansdowne Road saw the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, John O'Donoghue T.D. announce details of an investment of 3.5 million by the Irish Sports Council in the Irish Rugby Football Union for 2006.
The investment is in programmes aimed at increasing participation in rugby throughout Ireland at all levels and for all sectors of society.
One of the programmes that will benefit from this investment will be the IRFU Long Term Player Development Model (LTPD) which, for the first time, will provide an integrated framework to facilitate the development of rugby players at all levels of participation and experience.
The LTPD framework outlines six stages of development, namely - the FUNdamental stage, the Learn to Play & Practice stage, the Train to Train stage, the Train to Compete stage, the Train to Win stage and the final Retirement/Retention stage.
The LTPD model is designed to ensure that the experience of training and playing the game is appropriate for the development stage of the player involved. It is "player-centred", in that the specific characteristics at each stage are based on the particular capacities of players at each stage of development.
The player capacities are characterised across five areas that include Technical, Tactical, Physical, Mental and Lifestyle, and provide the compass by which the IRFU's Coach Development Department designs and promotes rugby coaching courses, emphasising that all coaches should be appropriately trained and qualified to work with players at each level.
The LTPD model is not intended to be a production line of world-class players but rather an integrated series of stages to maximise the potential of all players according to their own ability and ambition. Ultimately the successful establishment and maintenance of a long term programme of development will be essential to that small number of players with the talent and aspiration to become elite performers.
This investment announced today (Thursday) brings 18.5 million as the total allocated to the IRFU by the Irish Sports Council since 2001. The funding arises from the Special Budget Measure for the encouragement of greater underage participation in the three major field sports.
The entire IRFU programme, as with the GAA and the FAI, is in line with the Irish Sports Council's strategic objectives of increasing sporting opportunities for all and particularly for school aged children and disadvantaged groups. The Irish Sports Council and the IRFU agreed a detailed schedule of specific programmes for 2006, with some highlights of the 2005 programme set out below.
...Minister John O'Donoghue and IRFU President Peter Boyle...
Minister O'Donoghue said of the announcement: "This investment by the Government enables the IRFU to develop a series of innovative programmes to increase participation in rugby throughout Ireland, such as the excellent Long Term Player Development plan introduced today. These programmes, along with significant capital investments, are bringing success at every level and securing rugby's long term future in Ireland."
IRFU President Peter Boyle said: "This investment by the Irish Sports Council is an integral part of our ongoing plans for increasing both participation numbers and the quality experience of rugby for all participants as set out in the IRFU's Strategic Plan.
"The Long Term Player Development model is an important component in our strategy to improve the quality of players and coaches in Ireland at all levels, and an integral part of increasing participation numbers. We are confident that Irish rugby will continue to help the Irish Sports Council to meet its increased participation targets."
Irish Sports Council Chairman Ossie Kilkenny stated: "The Council has set high targets for increasing sports participation in Ireland. We rely on organisations such as the IRFU to help meet those targets. Their participation programmes are reaping rewards as they provide excellent opportunities for boys and girls throughout the country. We also recognise that these programmes must be underpinned by a well organised and professional organisation, which the IRFU most certainly is."
ISC Chief Executive John Treacy added: "The Irish Sports Council enjoys an excellent working relationship with the IRFU. As well as providing significant investment for the Union, the Council is supportive of critical programmes such as the Long Term Player Development Model.
"We acknowledge the great work of the Union in developing the game of rugby in Ireland in recent years and are delighted that advances in the administration of the game have been mirrored with great success on the pitch at every level of the sport."