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What is Age Grade Rugby?

  • A player centred, development driven and competition supported approach to 6-18 year old rugby, underpinned by the wants and needs of young players.

Why is there need for change?

These changes will address the findings from the Age Grade Competition Review (AGCR) which found that there was:

  • A lack of clarity of the competition pathway for young players
  • Conflict between club, school, college and representative competition structure and calendar
  • Overplaying of the talented players and underplaying of the less able players
  • Over emphasis on winning and picking better players to achieve this

What are the key changes?

The key changes for rugby across schools, colleges and clubs will be:

  • One national competition calendar
  • One national menu of competitions
  • Full roll out of the new Rules of Play
  • Regulations which support the above

What do we need to do?

  • Play to the regulations (Regulation 15) which state start and end dates of the season, obtain the right permissions for activities from your Constituent Body (CB) or County School Union (CSU) and follow rules on playing up and down.
  • Play to the competitive menu with festivals which observe the age group menu for representative rugby and with competitive opportunities in the correct window
  • Play to the rules, remembering the rules of play are the maximum point which an age group can play
  • Ensure everything you do is player centred.

Who took part in the consultation?

  • Further information about the consultation and who took part can be found here. As part of the implementation, the AGCR Implementation Development Group will review impact of these changes every six months.

Were young people consulted?

  • Yes. Through our research young people told us that the most important thing to them was getting on the pitch, playing alongside friends and having fun and this has underpinned the Age Grade Rugby strategy. Through an annual Age Grade player survey the views of all young people will continue to be listened to and acted upon.

Who agreed to the changes?

  • The RFU Council, formed by nominated representatives from across the game who provide governance for rugby, unanimously agreed to the implementation of Age Grade Rugby Competition Review (AGCR) recommendations from September 2016.

Who designed the new structure, calendar and the new Rules of Play?

  • The RFU Rugby Development Department, in consultation with stakeholders across the game.  The AGCR Implementation Development Group formed from practitioners from all sectors of age grade rugby played a big part in shaping this along with other stakeholder groups and individuals from across the rugby spectrum.
  • The new Rules of Play stemmed from the Shaping the Game research and pilots that originated in Durham, Hampshire and Warwickshire.  The rules have been rolling out on a voluntary to mandatory basis across the country since 2011 and are constantly under review.

What is Old Mutual Wealth Kids First?

  • Old Mutual Wealth Kids First is England Rugby’s approach to rugby at U7 – U13 and gives children the opportunity to proper by fostering an environment for having fun, leaning and building confidence.  More information about Old Mutual Wealth Kids First and the philosophy can be found here.


Where can I see the new competition menu and competitive calendar?

  • Supporting documents for the competition calendar and menu can be found here.[CS4]

Will there be any further changes to the competition calendar post 2016?

  • Yes. Changes to the male U17 and U18 calendar and menu have been limited for 2016-17 as this is the most complex area which requires further work and consultation.  The full new structure for this element of the game will come into effect in September 2017.

Do the windows allow players to play throughout the season?

  • Yes – Clubs, schools and colleges can still play throughout the season.  It does not mean that clubs can’t play rugby in schools windows or visa-versa.
  • The windows are when competition and representative rugby will be organised.  These windows will highlight where players in each sector may have periods of more intense competition. Coaches and teachers should work together ensuring the motivations of players are at the forefront of their discussions and adjust their selections accordingly.

How will traditional school and club fixtures work alongside the new calendar?

  • As fixtures can be played at any time within the season, Age Grade changes should not affect block fixtures. However, in planning these fixtures, consideration should be given to what (if any) competition is planned in that window for schools / clubs and what other activities the player may take part in.  Dialogue between coaches and teachers (focusing on motivations of players) should avoid any conflict for the player.

Why has the clubs and schools rugby playing window reduced?

  • The window has not reduced – they can still play throughout the season.  It is the number of weeks in a season taken up by formal structured competitions that have reduced.  Research shows that for these matches adult coaches and teachers focus more on the result and select or deselect players to achieve this.   The new framework is designed to reduce such matches and enable all players to be involved more of the time in line with their motivations.

Do the new Rules of Play, competition menu and calendar apply to all competitions including sevens?

  • Yes. The format of sevens’ tournaments will be in line with the menu.  For example, U13 sevens events can be festivals or waterfall tournaments and U11 events can be festivals.  The competition windows also apply to when these take place and these events will need to be approved by the Constituent Body or County Schools Union.

What now happens to U11 competitions pathways that require a winner to progress to the next round?

  • A broader progression criteria needs to be developed, that does not use the result of the game as the only qualification criteria. An example of this is scoring system which rates the core values, touchline behaviour, attacking or defensive skills.

Do the changes apply to intra house games or just inter school fixtures?

  • Yes. The AGR applies across the game, including house matches and inter form matches.

Does the calendar allow us to run a summer camp?

  • Yes, however the Summer Camp must be run in line with all elements of Regulation 15, including mixed age and out of season activity. A summer camp however does not provide an excuse for pre-season or fitness training. Further guidance on running a summer camp can be found here.

Can we “stream” players for training and competition?


What are the new Rules of Play?

  • The new Rules of Play were developed to provide progressive building blocks for the 15-a-side game to ensure young people play the right rugby at the right time.
  • Following pilots from 2011, these rules will be mandatory in September 2016 and these rules can be found on Regulation 15.

Aren’t the new Rules of Play “dumbing down” the game?

  • No.  New Rules of Play will ensure the right skills are introduced at the right time looking at the player journey from U7-U14 and not at specific age groups in isolation. This will keep young people playing rugby for longer
  • These rules are borne out of the Shaping the Game research from Exeter University and the pilots in Warwickshire, Hampshire and Durham.  This robust study, tested, trialed and recommended a stepping-stone approach to the 15-a-side game which was agreed and has been rolling out for a number of years.

I’m a primary school teacher, does this mean I now have to play contact rugby?

  • No, the new Rules of Play provide the level not to be exceeded for each age group but a reduced level can be played if more appropriate.
  • The RFU believes that tag and non-contact rugby provide an ideal format for primary schools where the technical requirements of contact rugby are removed.  This allows teachers with limited rugby or PE/sport training to introduce rugby with greater confidence and in an enjoyable way for their pupils.

Why can’t young people play contact rugby earlier?

  • We want players to have fun running and catching the ball before contact begins at U9.  This is to ensure their enjoyment and development of their skills at the right time. The age at which contact is introduced has not changed though now there will be consistency across schools and clubs with one approach for all.

What about the props?  With no need for them now until U13, aren’t they going to drop out?

  • Rugby remains a sport for all shapes and sizes.  It is important that young people develop their rugby skills gradually rather than deciding from an early age that they would like to play in a particular position.  The Age Grade Rugby approach will create more rounded players who go on to develop more specific skills once they have matured.

What is the reason for the Lineout changes?

  • The changes have been introduced to allow players to experience and master their skills using a phased introduction of the lineout. Other than the lift and the un-contested nature of the lineout at U14 and U15, normal U19 Law variations apply. To support teaching of the lineout local CPD courses, supported by lineout instruction videos, will be delivered local and can be  can be found here.

With fewer numbers in a team doesn’t this mean kids get less opportunity?

  • Inclusivity is a key principle of Age Grade Rugby as the review found that there is a vast amount of overplaying the better players and under playing of the less able.  The new Rules of Play, with the gradual introduction of aspects of the game, will help more young people get to grips with the basics of running and catching the ball before specialising in a particular position.  The new Rules of Play have shown greater contributions per player per game against the Continuum ‘old rules’.

Shouldn’t we group by weight bands rather than age as they do in New Zealand?

  • We did look at weight-bandings as used in Auckland, in the Age Grade Competition Review.  However, our research told us that the most important things for young people are to play with their friends and have fun.  The value of peer group participation in a huge driver for our age grade players.
  • Rugby defined by weight-bandings would require mixed ages on the pitch and the breaking up of these peer groups.  We will continue to review this but, for now, it has been decided that good coach training and development aligned to regulations which enable bigger/smaller players to play in  a different age group under extreme circumstances support our players’ desire to play rugby within their existing friendship groups.

Can we mix age groups?

  • In limited circumstances you can mix age groups under Regulation 15. The regulations for playing in a different age group are very clear.

The new Rules of Play provide details about the maximum numbers you can have on the pitch at one time in the progression to the 15-a-side game. Under the new Rules of Play, the game can be modified to better meet the needs of your players but you need to ensure that you don’t exceed the regulations for that age group.

Isn’t this a backward step for school pupils who have played XV contact with scrums and lineouts?

  • We understand that there will be some young players who will have already played XV-a-side contact rugby who will now be required to play a different game in line with their age.  However, it’s important that we follow the right building blocks to the XV game as our research has demonstrated that this is the best way to develop players’ skills and enjoyment.  With the changes coming in September 2016, there will be less disruption if we implement changes now rather than later, due to alignment with the mandatory rollout timescales for the new Rules of Play across England.

Isn’t the framework making Age Grade Rugby anti-competitive?

  • Playing to win is part of the game – rugby union is a competitive sport.  Players of all ages want to win when they play and we should encourage this.  However, Age Grade players tell us that there are a number of things that are more important to them and are their motivation for playing sport.  Adult motivations often become the driver for how Age Grade Rugby has been delivered by coaches and teachers who are more focused on results.  This has led to too much emphasis on winning at an early age and deterioration in touchline behaviour in recent years, ultimately resulting in us failing to keep young people in the game for longer.
  • Until the age of 12, winning is a minor consideration for the player.  When they move into secondary school this balance begins to change but initially not significantly.  From 15 years onwards the score does take on more significance but it is never more important for the young person than getting on the pitch.  The rules of play, competitive menu and playing calendar are designed to develop in competitive intensity through the age groups in line with this.

How will you train coaches and teachers on Age Grade Rugby?

  • We have created Age Grade Rugby specific courses for coaches and teachers to equip them training to implement the changes.  The competitive element of the game will be included in all training programmes for Age Grade Rugby.  These courses are supported by additional resources on My Rugby Academy.

How will the Age Grade Rugby changes be regulated?

  • Regulation 15 applies to Age Grade Rugby and has been updated through the RFU Governance system to ensure it is in line with the new framework.  It will provide a much more consistent set of rules and regulations across clubs, schools and colleges.  These are designed to help players to play based on what they want from the game the most and not to create barriers to participation.  They are continually reviewed to ensure this remains the case.

Why can’t U11 girls any longer play with U13s? 

  • The Age Grade Review includes a new and enhanced strategy for girls which sees greater focus on the dual U12/13 age band as the foundation for the growth of the game.  The U13 girls format is not appropriate for the U11 player.  If girls are prematurely involved in U13 format they will miss an important skill progression that will help them to enjoy and engage in the game for longer.

What should we do if we are touring abroad and the opposition are playing different rules?

  • Firstly ensure that appropriate permissions have been applied for and granted. Each union has regulations which should always be referred to in the first instance. When visiting another county you will need to have a conversation with the host coach/teacher to agree rules that are best for the development of the players. For example, if the host team has been doing contested scrums whilst the touring team hasn’t it wouldn’t be appropriate for visiting coach to agree to this element of the game.


Why are we only playing county rugby until Jan / Feb – shouldn’t we be spending more time with players not less if we want to succeed? 

  • The representative rugby programme will be more focused in specific weeks to ensure it does not clash with the schools and club schedule.  This will also ensure that the pre-Christmas core participation in Age Grade Rugby in clubs, schools and colleges is prioritised allowing all players of all standards to play alongside their friends on a regular basis.  This is part of creating a more balanced season for the player with less conflict, overplaying/underplaying and the activity of a minority of players impacting on the majority.

Why will county rugby only start at U15 when other sports identify talented players before this?  How will this benefit talented players?

  • Talent development experts from around the world told us that rugby is a late specialism sport and that we try to develop talent too early.  The experts recommended that we wait until players know which position they want to play and have matured before starting talent development.  Once this programme has started the players will benefit from a concentrated programme that will be consistent across all counties.
  • The Developing Player Programme (DPP) starts at U13 and runs to U16 on a regional basis.  This helps develop players of potential by working with them individually to complement the development they receive in their clubs or schools.

How will Age Grade Rugby develop county players?

  • Age Grade Rugby will ensure a balanced approach between counties, academies and the DPP to ensure we don’t overplay those players and they are given equal opportunities to develop their talent in an appropriate way.  This balancing also considers the players who are not in the talent, county or representative setups and the impact that their teammates involvement has on their own participation.
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