10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Incoming Connacht head coach Pat Lam spoke of the immediate impact the quality of the elite player pathway had on him and he commended Academy manager Nigel Carolan and his coaching team on their success.
In 2006 the province pioneered an intensive residential eight-week programme which has gone from strength to strength every year since.
This summer will see a record 500 players from Under-14 to Under-20 level receive professional rugby and fitness coaching in an effort to maximise their potential.
Connacht recognises its small playing pool as a strength which enhances talent identification and lends itself to lower coach/player ratios.
Of those players, 150 will be based residentially in Galway, having up to three training sessions a day.
Parents were informed of the support mechanisms Connacht provide, including nutritionists, sports psychologists and psychotherapists.
Carolan emphasised that 'no stone is left unturned and the programme provides the player with every chance of becoming a professional'.
This has borne through with nine of Connacht's successful Under-20 team now on professional contracts.
As players like Kieran Marmion and Robbie Henhsaw have proven, Connacht can provide you with a breakthrough straight from school.
For more information on the Connacht Rugby elite programme, please click on the following links: