Diarmuid Kelly, the Tournament Director of the Under-18 Six Nations Festival which was recently held in Cork, tells IrishRugby.ie that taking part in age grade tournaments is vital for the future of international player development.
Diarmuid Kelly is certain that, following the completion of the 2008 U-18 Six Nations Festival, the future is bright for international rugby in Europe.
“On the evidence of the performances on the field of play, I believe the U-18 Six Nations Festival achieved its goal of providing a forum for development of the playing skills of the best of the U-18 players from the participating countries,” he said.
“One of the great benefits of the tournament is that squads of 26 players assemble for a week’s duration to train and play against countries in a competitive environment without the pressure of a winner-takes-all and that gave players a great introduction to international rugby.”
Kelly said that the Festival rule, where all squad members must start at least one of its country’s three games, was a huge plus for the players taking part.
“That rule ensures that all squad members have the opportunity to start a game and means that some members do not return home without playing as can be the situation in a more competitive situation.
“In addition to training and playing, the Festival exposed the players to drug testing and advice from the Irish Sports Council on the dangers of performance enhancing substances,” he explained.
For many this would have been their first experience in drug testing and provided them with essential advice and information.”
He also praised the exemplary conduct of the players at the Festival and said that the event was of great development value to the team of young referees, including Ireland’s David Wilkinson, who were drawn from all six competing nations.
“Resulting from great coverage in the media, attendances have been beyond expectations with approximately 3,000 patrons in attendance at Ireland’s opening game against Wales at Musgrave Park.
“The policy decision of free admission has been of benefit, especially to the younger supporters, and that is something which should continue throughout the hosting of this event in the years to come.”
For more information on the 2008 Under-18 Six Nations Festival, please click here.