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Academy League is playing its part for players

Tigers and London Irish share the 2109/20 after a draw in Sunday's Final
Tigers and London Irish share the 2109/20 after a draw in Sunday's Final

As Leicester Tigers and London Irish shared the 2019/20 title in the Under-18s Academy competition with a draw in Sunday’s Final, the season was hailed as a resounding success by Premiership Rugby’s head of elite performance and player development Corin Palmer.

A former London Irish academy manager, Palmer believes the tournament is working well as its reached the conclusion of its eighth season and is confident the programme is producing players for the step up to senior level.

“Finals Day is the culmination of it all,” said Palmer. “We are aiming to deliver a competitive league to underpin the players’ development and confirm their talent in the under-18 age grade.

“We have a fantastically competitive league, it’s been a really exciting and competitive league this season.

“The role of Premiership Rugby in the Player Development space is to support clubs in getting players industry-ready.

"We drive the infrastructure for this alongside the RFU with our tournaments and development leagues to assist them in confirming talent.

“The Under-18 Academy League is providing competitive rugby for 16, 17 and 18-year-old players in club shirts coached by club coaches. That is what we set out to achieve and I believe we have delivered that.”

England internationals Ellis Genge, Lewis Ludlam and Charlie Ewels are some of the names to have featured in the league in previous years.

At Tigers, the likes of Freddie Steward, Sam Costelow, Henri Lavin, Jack Van Poortvliet, Thom Smith, Taylor Gough and George Martin have all experienced senior rugby since playing in the Under-18 League Final in recent seasons as the club celebrated title wins in 2018 and 2019 before sharing the crown this term.

“If you fast forward to where we are in the Six Nations, eight of the current England squad played in the Academy League,” he said.

“We started in 2012/13 but have gradually layered on an added value to it year after year.

“Now it’s achieving exactly what we set out to do, which is to provide the first competitive rung on the ladder in the competition pathway.”