Thursday's announcement of a 3.5 million investment in the IRFU by the Irish SPorts Council has highlighted a number of the Participation Programmes run by the Union.
The largest single element of the Council funding is the employment of development staff in each of the four provinces including 4 Provincial Development Managers, 13 Regional Development Officers and 87 Youth Development Officers.
The Tallaght Project, which has seen over 3,000 children exposed to the game of rugby, continues to grow and develop to the point that it has now expanded into Swords in North County Dublin. In addition to this, initial preparatory work is being done in Ballymun, which has been selected as the third site for the project.
The Clubs of Ireland Scheme is an achievement based reward mechanism, which funds clubs for performance in the playing area of the game. The scheme encompasses mini-rugby, tag rugby, women's rugby and referee & coach development. Over 1,200 schools participated in the scheme.
500 schools and 50,000 children took part in Coca-Cola Tag Rugby, a non contact version of rugby, which included provincial and regional Inter-School blitzes and extravaganzas. 150 new schools received "tag packs" and teachers received referee coaching. 110 areas in Community Games are now playing tag rugby. The Buntzs tag programme expanded from Limerick City into Donegal and will start shortly in Sligo and County Cork.
...Kids in action at half-time at Lansdowne Road...
The IRFU continues to cover the full cost of School/Youth/Under-20/Women's Team insurances and subsidises the cost of Adult team insurance. In addition to this, the representative teams of Youths, Schools, Under-19, Under-21 and Women were supported in 2005.
87 schools received payments under the Schools of Ireland Programme in recognition of their work to develop rugby in view of the rising costs of team sports at school level. Over 70,000 worth of playing gear and equipment was supplied to clubs and schools. 90,000 was paid to schools & clubs in respect of the Reward for Development programme for the introduction of the players into the professional game for the 2004/05 season.
Other highlights included the provision of a wide range of coach education courses and referee training courses. Three university development officers are currently employed to assist running Colleges rugby nationwide and four regional fitness advisors are employed to assist clubs, schools and the Elite Player Development process in the introduction of core strength and development programmes.