5 Dec, 14:49
The Ireland Under-19 squad to face Australia Schools at Ravenhill on Saturday week (December 14) has been announced.
A key aspect is the offer of structured third level education to elite players. This structured education will also involve a mentoring and development programme.
Speaking at the launch, NUI Galway President Dr. Jim Browne said that the aim is 'to provide professional players with the opportunity to combine third level study with a professional rugby career which will provide a powerful incentive for talented young players to come to Connacht and NUI Galway'.
Connacht's head of commercial and marketing, Alex Saul, said: "We are delighted to welcome NUI Galway on board to support our Academy and age-grade Programmes.
"NUI Galway are the perfect partner to have to ensure that our development pathway continues to flourish, whilst also opening the door to further commercial, educational and research opportunities."
Connacht CEO Tom Sears added: "Our new partnership with NUI Galway will enable Connacht Rugby to further enhance our holistic approach to elite player development.
"We have always sought to develop our players in every aspect of their lives, on and off the pitch, to ensure they reach their full potential and this link will provide tremendous opportunities for them.
"We fully intend to explore all the exciting opportunities of working closely with NUI Galway and see this new partnership as fundamental to our future development in many areas."
Connacht players and NUI Galway brand ambassadors Robbie Henshaw, Eoin McKeon, Conor Finn and Rory Moloney will be taking an active part in the NUI Galway schools liaison programme.
They will visit schools and talk to students about the potential to balance elite sport with third level education, but also the broader benefits of both an active mind and an active body.
Ciaran Fitzgerald, the former Connacht, Ireland and Lions captain, launching the partnership, said that the initiative is 'a wonderful opportunity for young people both inside and outside the province of Connacht to benefit from the combination of two schools of excellence'.
Today marks the beginning of a broader partnership that will extend beyond school visits, structured education for elite players and underage team support to world class research in areas like psychology, nutrition and performance excellence.
The aim is to address challenges facing elite athletes in the professional game and enable leading researchers to address those challenges in rugby played at the highest level.