An Analysis and Investigation into the Elite Player Pathways of the Irish Rugby Football Union

Byrne, Richard (2011) An Analysis and Investigation into the Elite Player Pathways of the Irish Rugby Football Union. Masters thesis, Waterford Institute of Technology.

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In today’s increasingly competitive world of professional rugby, clubs, provinces and national teams have recognised the importance and need for rugby academies in order to obtain ultimate success whether it is at a domestic level or on the world stage (Spamer, 2009). The purpose of this study was to analyse and investigate the Elite Player pathway systems of the Irish Rugby Football Union. Williams and Reilly (2000) explain that in order to remain competitive, sporting organisations and clubs must invest considerable amounts of money in their quest to identify and nurture potentially elite players. Abbott and Collins (2002) are of the opinion that early identification of individuals has become important across all sporting domains. Since the dawn of the professional rugby era in 1995, rugby in Ireland has become a real career path for many schoolboy players and competition for provincial and national selection at school level has become increasingly tough (Spamer, 2009). Currently Ireland has four representative professional rugby teams; each province has their own academy where the focus is to provide the best environment for young Irish players to develop their skills, disciplines, knowledge and attitude to achieve their full playing potential of the game. Full time academy players typically join the academies around 18 years of age; these players are contracted for three years subject to annual review. The primary objective of this study was to identify and examine the recruitment and talent identification methods used by the IRFU. Quantitative research was undertaken and data was obtained through the use of questionnaires which were distributed to current (n=61) and past players (n=139) with a return rate of current (n= 44) and past (n= 15) The study employed a largely qualitative methodology, interviewing nineteen elite young rugby players (18-22 years of age) and four Head coaches. The study revealed that on average 32% of the total academy players have graduated to their respective current provincial senior squad in the period 2004 -2010. Within the particular Irish context, this country is known for its incredibly competitive attitude worldwide. Current findings show that 60% of past players have come through the elite player pathway and graduated to a development contract; while 20% of former academy players went on to win senior international caps for Ireland. However, this “never say die” is unfortunately not enough to consistently guarantee success in the sports arena. To further increase the IRFU’s pool of knowledge in a constructive and meaningful way, accurate methods of talent identification and development need to be developed.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Rugby Union football
Departments or Groups: *NONE OF THESE*
Divisions: School of Health Sciences > Department of Health, Sport and Exercise Studies
Depositing User: Derek Langford
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2011 14:27
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2016 10:26

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