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England Rugby Player Programme

The England Rugby Player Pathway is an integral part of the structure that supports England Teams. The Player Pathway is in place to provide a singular journey from our community through to the top end of the game.

Involvement in the pathway should add value to every individual. There will be challenges, but we expect the overall experience to be beneficial and for individuals to see their time engaging with the pathway as a value adding experience. As players grow through the player pathway, we hope they will continue to learn about themselves as a player, person, athlete and member of their rugby family.

To achieve the platform on which all players can reach their potential, we need to consider the training and playing programmes we are responsible for, the impact and load on the individual and the consequences of early selection, de-selection and specialisation.

Every player’s journey is unique to them, and therefore it is important to recognize that this is a guiding framework to help create a safe and supportive environment, the opportunity to explore, practice and develop the skills required to maximise potential.

Many of the young people starting out on this journey will have ambitions and aspirations and although the majority will never achieve a professional career, involvement in the pathway should add value, be enjoyable, and be a beneficial experience for all. As each step progresses, the expectations in terms of time commitment, training intensity and off-field commitment increase. We recognise that this journey is not for everyone.

The intention of this information is to outline the purpose and principles that underpin early engagement in talent development from an England rugby union perspective, provide a skills framework to support nomination, assessment and coaching delivery, and give clear guidance on the regulations that support an appropriate delivery plan for the DPP.

The Talent Development Environment

The Talent Development Environment combines three stages, Explore, Adapt and Win, each one building on the foundations of the previous stage.

  • EXPLORE – early stage of engagement, players exposed to game like training, skill development and the freedom to learn the game.

  • ADAPT – greater development of tactical understanding and making decisions in dynamic environments. Greater position specific emphasis and competitive game structure.

  • WIN – exploring and adapting to new skills, tactical and technical requirements


The provision of this is not a definitive manual for coaching, but a framework that holds the central pillars key to developing future England players. Behind this framework is a desire to guide coaches and deliverers of rugby activity to share a clear and consistent purpose, understand the core components through the provision of a common language. Producing reference points that will empower coaches to design coaching practice and generate quality-learning environments.

A framework delivered through a game zone – skill zone approach, practicing the techniques required with relevant pressure and decision-making that focuses on raising player potential.

A framework built on the principles of play, understanding shape and systems in attack and defence, and the skills required to perform those actions.

Developing Player Programme (DPP) – Explore Stage

The Purpose of the DPP is to provide an early experience of talent nomination, identification and a development programme with a focus on skill development and acquisition, game understanding and the physical components that help a player unlock their potential.

The delivery framework, structured to provide national alignment, continuity and consistency of the DPP, support the Regional Academy audit, while respecting the distinctiveness and philosophies from the various people and stakeholders.

Underpinned by the following eight key principles, the DPP should provide a programme that is inclusive and accessible, creates a culture of learning and development, and generates quality experiences for all involved.

1. A pathway that is Player Centred, Development Driven and Competition Supported.

  • Player Centred means meeting the needs of that individual player and the emphasis is on them, with a focus on potential rather than current ability, and the importance is on enjoyment and encouraging a life-long love of rugby

  • Development Driven means recognising the various stages in a players journey and providing the opportunities to develop physical literacy, skills and self-confidence to enjoy the sport

  • Competition Supported means providing appropriate meaningful playing opportunities that enable further development and exploration of resilience, leadership and rugby’s core values, Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline, Sportsmanship


2. Support a learning journey that provides a safe and supportive environment, the opportunity to practice and develop skills required and support lifestyle choices to maximise potential.

3. An emphasis on a skills framework built on the principles of play and delivered through a “Game Zone – Skill Zone” model that focuses on raising player potential.

4. To deliver an integrated playing and training programme and establish a greater connection between all key stakeholders.

5. To consider the impact and (playing/training) load on the individual.

6. To reduce the consequences of early selection, de-selection and specialisation.

7. To provide clarity on nomination and selection processes and deliver consistent feedback.

8. To develop an appropriately skilled workforce.

Developing Player Programme (DPP) – Delivery

The player is at the heart of the delivery framework and the focus for this information. By player, we refer to the psychological, social, physiological, emotional and life skills an individual requires to thrive in a talent development environment.

By creating an environment that encourages players to grow, keeping a broad base of players engaged pre-maturation, selection based on readiness and potential, aligning the development, playing and training programmes for players and developing a dedicated and committed workforce provides the best strategy for success.

The DPP should create a culture of learning and development, be inclusive and accessible, and generate quality experiences for all involved. It will focus on providing a learning environment, where the Talent Development Environment is a key driver, and commit to reduce the risk of injury through embedding injury prevention programmes.

Players need exposure to game-like training and to be given the time and freedom to explore the game and provide a broad understanding to all aspects of the game.

Maturation is highly variable at this stage and players go on to change positions, therefore we must ensure a breadth of experience.

Training sessions should be carefully planned, designed and balance the provision of deliberate practice activities to develop skill, with games to maximise player enjoyment and learning. They should adopt an integrated approach to physical development within “rugby” sessions with focus on body management and movement literacy patterns.


Development Framework


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