New north Wales academy for young rugby stars
The latest bid to improve the profile and success of rugby in north Wales has been launched, with the unveiling of a new elite rugby academy.
The Welsh Rugby Union hopes the initiative will ensure that young talent from the region get the training they need to break into the game.
The WRU RGC Academy has invited 11 teen players into the programme.
Alongside intensive coaching, the players will also get the chance for academic or vocational training.
The academy was promised as part of last year's deal to set up the north Wales regional side, Gogledd Cymru 1404, which is based at Colwyn Bay's Eirias Park.
The 11 academy players unveiled on Wednesday are being promised the best coaching, conditioning and analysis the WRU has to offer - something it already provides to other regional academies in south Wales.
WRU head of rugby, performance and development, Joe Lydon said: "Today's announcement is all about the development of the game in north Wales and the sustainability of the player pathway here.
"With the establishment of RGC 1404 regional development side, there is now a competitive, representative team in the region."
He said the academy was key to the long-term production line of home grown players to build on work already going on with local clubs.
"The players involved in this first academy intake are a credit to the north Wales clubs and coaches and this latest stage in the development of north Wales rugby can only help to raise standards here."
In addition to receiving up to 16 hours a week of professional coaching, the academy members are also being offered full time education.
The academy has struck up a partnership with Llandrillo college and Rydal Penhros school.
For 16-year-old academy player Aaron Gwyn from Caernarfon it means moving to the private Rydal school in September, where he will be studying for his A levels as well as training on the pitch.
"It's a massive change - it's going to be a good experience for me."
"It's a privilege. It means I've got an ambition, it means I've got something to do with myself, and I've go a dream - to play professional rugby.
"I'd love to play in Wales, to play for Wales, and wouldn't think of playing anywhere else."
Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde, who attended the launch said: "Rugby has changed dramatically since I came through the ranks at Bangor, Menai Bridge and Mold.
"Whilst the grassroots clubs are an essential part of Welsh rugby, in order to be amongst the best teams in the world, it is vital that we develop our players from an early age physically, technically and tactically.
"North Wales has produced many professional rugby players but we have always had to travel to south Wales or England until now.
"The establishment of the WRU RGC academy means that north Wales youngsters can receive the same level of coaching and conditioning as those in the rest of Wales."