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“Developing young rugby players whose progress has been limited not by talent but by instability in the professional game.”

This is the mission statement of a soon-to-launch professionally-run, locally-based academy which aims to allow aspiring players in Coventry and Warwickshire to fulfil their potential.

The Coventry Rugby Regional Academy has been created to deal with the disastrous fall-out from the demise of Wasps and Worcester Warriors. 

Following their 2022 collapse, an RFU-operated interim Academy was hastily put in place to ensure talented 14 to 18-year-olds in the West Midlands retained access to the coaching  and support programmes that develop them as rugby players only for this to also close following a restructure.

With boundary lines redrawn and academy areas reallocated to afford the premiership cartel clubs wider areas within which to operate, parents are now faced with challenging amounts of travel to get their children involved with professional clubs with whom they have no natural affinity.

Coventry and Warwickshire was historically an area with a thriving local club scene which underpinned the county side and professional club Coventry Rugby. Establishing a multi- stakeholder, professionally-run academy that develops players for the county’s clubs is now at the heart of this new initiative.

Financially supported by local business and driven by rugby people who have been let down by the existing approach, the Coventry Rugby Regional Academy will work closely with schools, clubs, universities and representative teams within the Coventry and Warwickshire area.

As a result of this collaboration, those involved will receive coaching and high-performance support programmes on par, if not better than, other professional rugby academies in England.   

“We want rugby union to be a big part of the sporting scene in Coventry and Warwickshire and by ensuring talented players reach their full potential we will provide players to clubs at every level,” Coventry Rugby chief executive Nick Johnston said.

“From Neil Back and Tom Wood who played in the Premiership and for England to current Coventry head coach Alex Rae, one of his wingers David Opoku or first-teamers at clubs like Barkers Butts or Old Leamingtonians our area has a fantastic track record of producing rugby players.

“This new initiative will ensure youngsters both now and, in the future, get the same opportunities that their contemporaries around the country receive in the RFU-funded Premiership academies and that our wonderful rugby heritage continues.”

David Opoku scores against Leicester Lions

How will it work?

The academy will feature Under-15, 16, 18 and 23 age-groups and be accessible through recommendations from local clubs, schools, county boards and open trials which will take place over the summer and throughout the year.

It will be based at the Butts Park Arena on Monday evenings and be supported by Coventry Rugby and elite external coaches and support staff. Selected players will take part in regular training sessions as well as representative games and be part of a pathway that in time will lead some to professional rugby. 

Crucially, by taking a collaborative approach this new academy will not get in the way of existing club, school, university and representative rugby but rather enhance it by assisting in player development.

And by taking an inclusive approach it will remove all barriers and therefore present allcomers with the opportunity to fulfil their ambition and maximise their potential and ability.

The academy will run in parallel with Coventry Rugby’s Futures Trust programme, but the two are not inter-connected.

The top-end 18-23 age group caters specifically for late developers and those who have been unsuccessful in winning professional contracts at the end of academy pathway. It is envisaged that this will be a dual pathway where educational opportunities plus vocational and skill-based qualifications will be available.

Key Objectives

  • Provide an opportunity for ALL young ambitious players to develop their talent
  • Increase the club playing population in Coventry and Warwickshire
  • Improve the standard of county rugby
  • Create a world-class  coach and support staff development programme
  • Create a pathway to professional rugby

More details and information about how to express an interest in participation will be presented at an Academy Launch Evening to be held at Butts Park Arena on Friday June 28th from 7pm.