Tony Ward: Authorities should leave schools game alone
Lest anyone thinks I scaremonger a little from time to time about the distorted emphasis placed on 'screening' and 'academy entrance' by some who should know better, get a grab of this.
Not content with the monitoring/ screening which begins at Junior (U-16) level, the people running this part of the IRFU want to change the provincial system that has served Irish rugby so well for so long.
Up to now, boys have been selected to play for the provinces in which they attend school, but there is a move to alter this so that students would be made available to play for any of the four provinces.
In other words, those who don't make the Leinster schools squad, for example, would be made available for selection by the other three.
Quite apart from the impact on the individual's education (caused by training demands, etc), what price identity if this was to happen?
The historic integrity of the Schools Inter-provincial Championship, that has been in existence for over 130 years (since 1887, Connacht joined in 1928), is being sacrificed on the high altar of expediency and being surrendered to the path of 'professional development'.
Not content with lording over the demise of the club tier, it is now the level below that which is coming under the hammer.
Quite how driving a double-decker bus through a development system that has served the game here so well, will benefit or improve Irish rugby standards going forward is just beyond me.
Sometimes you truly do despair.