18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
At U18 level 8 Exiles played for Ireland in the Four Nations Championship in Scotland. One of these players, Adrian Lightowler, had the honour of captaining his country. He did this with distinction both on and off the field.
At U19 level the Exiles had 7 players in the Ireland U19 training squad, with 3 players being capped for Ireland during the FIRA U19's World Cup in France.
At U21 level 3 Exiles players were included in the Ireland games against the French Regions. Two of these players continued in the squad with one making the bench against Italy in the 6 Nations and the other being capped during the U21 World Cup in England.
Our U18 side made its second successful trip to Ireland at the start of the season. The squad based itself in Galway for the weekend and started off with a win, in a very tight game against Connacht. Our second encounter against Munster at Thomond Park brought a narrow defeat - a game in which we didn't convert our better rugby into points.
The support for the team from the large number of parents, who travelled to Ireland, plus local residents, was tremendous. A highlight of the tour was the singing of Ollie McLarnon.
The tour provided a strong base for the side to face the Scottish Exiles in November. In a very well contrasted game the side dug deep and pulled off a victory in the last 15 minutes of a thrilling game.
The U19's side played some good rugby during the year with a victory over the Welsh Exiles and a lose against Munster Schools. They were handicapped by injuries to players in key positions.
The U21 side lost against an Ulster U21 side in hot sun at Brunel. This game highlighted the difficulty that has been facing the Exiles over these past few seasons. The home Provinces start preparing their squads for the next season in May with regular weekly squad sessions starting in June. Their players are released from their clubs for the particular weekend's game.
The Exiles squad that faced Ulster had players missing, because their club wouldn't release them, the contracted players, who did play, had played hard games the day before and the squad got together for the first time on the morning of the game. Against the Welsh Exiles there was a more level playing field and the Exiles playing some adventurous rugby secured a good win.
The U17 side had another outing this season against the Scottish Exiles. Their side weakened by injury showed character against a very strong Scottish side. Despite this loss some good individual displays caught the eye.
This season the Exiles will take a major step forward by appointing a full time Development Manager. The position is the result of the Exiles committee's strategic proposal to the IRFU and 12 months of discussions to secure approval from the IRFU.
Our next major step is to find some sponsorship for the Exiles both in terms of Academy players and team opportunities. A Sponsorship Sub-Committee Chairman has been appointed and he will invite people interested in Exiles rugby to join this sub-committee.