Made in Yorkshire, won in Lancashire. It may be stretching the point, but, with five players involved, there’s no disputing Yorkshire Carnegie played a significant part in helping England’s bid to recapture the Junior World Cup they lost to New Zealand 12 months ago.
Lewis Boyce, Max Green, Jack Walker, Josh Bainbridge and Max Wright’s presence in Manchester ensured Carnegie had more players involved in the tournament than any other English club, and knowing folk in Yorkshire, they will even claim stand-in captain Harry Mallinder, son of Halifax-born Saints DoR Jim, as one of their own.
That’s some achievement for a club that last tasted Premiership rugby back in 2011, and is a ringing endorsement for the work being carried out throughout the white rose county at grass roots level.
“All five of them have been with us through our own programmes for at least five years – since they were either 13, 14 or 15. They also went to sixth form at Prince Henry’s in Otley and have spent an incredible amount of time together as young men and young players so to get this opportunity to represent their country as one is great,” said Carnegie academy manager Andy Rock.
Having five young players at the pinnacle of their age-group clearly helps the club’s executive president Sir Ian McGeechan, right, in his mission to tap into the talent available in England’s largest county and eventually turn Carnegie into a major force in the game.
“It is fantastic and a great reflection on what we are doing and the progress we are continuing to make. Credit must go to Andy Rock and all the academy staff. It shows a) the talent that there is around Yorkshire and b) how well we are bringing it through.”
Driven by McGeechan, Carnegie’s county-wide talent identification and coaching system has been far-reaching. “We have over 15 affiliated clubs in six satellite areas and they cover the whole county,” he explained. “The numbers of players involved, between the ages of 13 and 16 in our ERDPP programmes, will shortly go up to 800.
“The academy, under Andy Rock, is light years ahead in terms of structure, numbers and involvement to where it was three years ago, simply because it is a county-wide programme with in excess of 70 coaches who help us deliver our programmes, all behind the Yorkshire badge.
“When you look at the talent sitting at the top, and here we are with five players with England U20s, and five (developed by Leeds) with a series-winning England team in Australia, I think we’ve a lot to be proud of.”
Hanging onto the likes of Danny Care, and most recently Bath-bound Jack Walker, has been a losing battle for Carnegie especially since the Leeds-based club lost its top-flight status. McGeechan is realistic to know that money talks and little will change until Carnegie return to the top level.
“It’s market rates and obviously it is much easier if we are a Premiership side. Our aim is to be in the Premiership and to have all this talent coming into a Premiership first team.
“We are pretty confident we will be able to hang on to these players once we’ve got that status. All of them (Walker aside) are under contract for next season which shows their commitment to the club as well.
“The club has been hugely supportive of their development. I think we have been very positive and given them the right amount of game-time and they’ve seen the benefits. It is not just about being in a Premiership academy and never playing.
“They have all played for the first team, and Jack has captained the first team. All the way through it is about realising the players’ potential. For players like Jack that leadership quality will be invaluable for him moving forward.
“We want two-thirds or more of our squad to have come through the Yorkshire system. This is a three to five-year plan but having the five players at the World U20s is a reflection of how much is right in the whole structure.
“The challenge for us now is to make the Premiership as quickly as we can and complete the top of the pyramid.”
Scrapping the end-of-season play-offs would make that task harder given that London Irish, with their parachute payment, would be overwhelming favourites to be promoted under a first past the post system.
“That’s all in limbo at the moment,” he stated. “As far as I know, we are probably likely to be looking at a similar season and play-offs next year. Nothing has been resolved or suggested that it is going to change – as yet.
“We’re pretty open about it really, and we’ll just wait and see.”
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