Wayne Mitchell, who has been working in the IRFU’s elite talent pathway for 12 years, has been appointed to a newly created role that will see him coordinating and managing the IRFU’s National Talent Squad and Talent Identification programmes.
Reporting directly to Peter Smyth, the IRFU’s Head of Elite Player Development, Wayne will be working with the IRFU’s Talent Coaches and Academy staff as well as engaging with a host of stakeholders in the pathway to ensure that young players are identified, supported and provided with the opportunity to excel.
The National Talent Squad programme was established in 2017 and provides high performance coaching, athletic development, nutrition education and additional services to a cohort of identified players aged between 15-20 years of age. This national programme runs parallel to the provincial talent squad programmes.
Over the course of the 2020/21 season to date 18 players from the NTS programme have made their senior provincial debuts in the Guinness PRO14. Two NTS graduates Craig Casey and Ryan Baird were capped for the senior Ireland men’s team.
During the pandemic additional online education resources have been created to better service elite pathway players. Extensive video libraries now exist covering the national standard curriculums for both athletic performance and nutrition.
A new talent identification course has been developed by Wayne and Matt Wilkie and has already been piloted successfully in Ulster. It is currently in the process of being rolled out across the other three provinces. This nationally run and coordinated programme will be delivered at a provincial level and help to drive alignment and consistency in this important area. The development of skills and knowledge in this area will be an important element of Wayne’s role.
Peter Smyth, commented, “The pandemic has focused minds on how we identify and support players on the elite pathway to maximise the return on the effort and expertise that is operating on the ground. Wayne is the perfect individual to drive these programmes forward and ensure the success of the NTS and PTS programmes is built on and improved over the coming years with greater alignment, communication and accountability.”
David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, said, “This period of hiatus in on-field action has allowed us to focus on what we do well and areas where we can improve. Wayne’s role will be vital in coordinating the people we have on the ground and maximising their impact on the progression of talent through the pathway.
Another key part of the restructuring of the roles of our staff within the performance pathway is a focus on developing female talent. This will now be an area where our professional staff will have a direct responsibility in supporting underage female talent.”
Wayne Mitchell, the IRFU’s National NTS and Talent ID Manager, said,
“This new role is all about how we best service the player and how those working in the elite player pathway are supporting the player’s journey through the system so that they can fulfil their potential. There is some fantastic supports already in place for our young players but there is always room for improvement and our Talent ID programme is certainly going to help connect the NTS and PTS programmes to emerging talent around the country.”