Cardiff Blues Academy Manager Gruff Rees has confirmed that there are currently no blocks of Regional Age Grade Rugby planned for the 2020/21 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to the club’s official website, Rees said, “There’s no block one or block two planned this year around age grade rugby, but working closely with the Welsh Rugby Union, we’re hoping we’ll still have a Schools and Colleges format which will take us into the New Year.”
It leaves Rees and the Cardiff Blues Academy with a potential conundrum as last season’s U16 side was unable to complete their combined block of fixtures over Easter, leaving the coaches without the opportunity to fully assess the players who would be promoted to the U18 squad this season.
If U16 RAG rugby is unable to get up and running during this campaign then next season’s U18 squad will have very little or no experience under their belts beyond the Dewar Shield.
Rees is hopeful of combating this and getting on the field before next summer though, saying “we want to look more at under-17 type of events around the region, and identify who could potentially play under-18 rugby later in the calendar. Hopefully from that point we can have regional under-17 and under-18 games later in the traditional season, which would take us into the summer.”
It has also been confirmed that the Celtic Cup will not take place this season, while there is still no start date for the Indigo Group Premiership. The eternally optimistic say November, the more realistic says January, but it could well be the case that full contact semi-professional rugby is not able to return until a vaccine is found.
That means that many players in the 18-21 age range face the prospect of going at least 12 months without playing competitive rugby at a key time in their development.