Ulster Rugby partnered with the IRFU’s National NTS & Talent ID Manager Wayne Mitchell to roll out a new structured approach to talent identification across their player pathway.
The initial pilot which took place before COVID has subsequently been built on and adapted by Ulster Rugby to educate and broaden their network of talent spotters and enhance their ability to monitor a larger cohort of talented players within the Ulster clubs and schools system.
The project in Ulster is led by Michael Black (Ulster Rugby Provincial Talent Coach) and Jonny Graham (Ulster Rugby Provincial Pathway Coach) and has already borne fruit with players flagged and scouted from the programme having already pulled on an underage Ulster Rugby representative jersey.
The IRFU Talent ID Programme in Ulster has only been fully operational in for 18 months with the pilot predominantly focused on schools as an initial starting point.
10 players were identified and included in the U17 summer programme and at U18 Level Alexander Brennan (Campbell College), Josh Gibson (RBAI) and Callum Bradley (Dromore High School) came through the new TID process. All three featured for Ulster in the U18 Interprovincial Championships this year.
Similarly Bryn Ward (RBAI), Cameron Faith (Campbell College), Jamie Matthews (Omagh Academy) and Adam Montgomery (Rainey Endowed School) all represented Ulster in the U19 Interpro Championships this year. Ward has now been included in the National Talent Squad programme and has been included in the Ireland U19s training squad.
The programme allows for consistent profiling and comparison of players across a range of age brackets from U16 to U19 right through to players that are part of Provincial or National Talent Squads. Over the coming years increased value will come from the structures identifying and supporting talent at those younger age brackets.
Other players to be flagged through the Talent ID programme include Reece Williamson (Ballymena Academy), Josh Eagleson (RBAI), Daniel Bennett (Belfast High School) and Adam Bennett (Belfast High School).