THE IRFU has issued a strong warning about supplements used by young players to bulk up.
The national performance nutritionist with the union, Ruth Wood-Martin, said that no teen or child under the age of 18 should be taking muscle building supplements.
A number of products — including the likes of creatine — are available to purchase on the high street and online.
“Often the desire to get physically bigger is the reason young people choose to take supplements, which they see as a quick-fix answer for accelerated growth, but there is little evidence to condone this,” she said.
“Young players will gain size and strength from well-planned training and recovery, supported by good nutritional practices. The IRFU strongly advises against the use of nutritional aids, in particular creatine, in young players under 18 years of age.”
Earlier this year, chairman of Ireland's anti-doping committee Professor Brendan Buckley said young athletes were playing “Russian roulette” with their health.
“There is evidence that the use of some supplements can even be fatal,” Prof Buckley said.
Ms Wood-Martin also advised that the use of protein supplements should not be recommended by schools, coaches, teachers or others involved in the training of young athletes.
And she warned that some of the products may contain banned substances which are not stated on the label.
“The IRFU has worked closely with the Irish Sports Council to implement an anti-doping programme at under-age level, as there is a possibility that a sports supplement may contain a banned and possibly harmful substance that a player is unaware of,” she said.
“This could see them fail an anti-doping test or risk their health, so players must take steps to ensure they protect themselves.”
Ms Wood-Martin is a registered sports and exercise nutritionist and her main focus is with the national senior squad.
The IRFU has issued a specific set of guidelines to rugby schools and clubs, which is available from their website.