Director of Professional Rugby at the RFU Nigel Melville believes changes to registration rules for England Academy Players (EAP) can result in increased playing time and competition exposure.
This season (2017/18) there can be increased movement for EAPs between clubs at Levels 1 (Aviva Premiership) to 3 with approved movement to Level 4 clubs.
EAPs may now simultaneously be registered with one club at each level between Levels 1 to 4 and there will no longer be a cap on the number of clubs that an EAP can move between in any one season.
“There’s a large pool of young players in academies who are getting great coaching, strength, and conditioning but they are not getting enough competition,” said Melville.
“We are freeing up the movement to allow our young players to be put into environments where they can play on a regular basis and increase the level of competition time they get. It’s about giving them the opportunity.”
In addition, the number of EAPs that clubs at Levels 2 and 3 will be able to select in a match day squad has increased.
Greene King IPA Championship clubs (Level 2) may select up to 10 EAPs (previously up to six), and Level 3 clubs may select up to 10 EAPs (previously up to four).
“It’s good for English Rugby and in particular our age grade teams that our younger players are going to get regular games prior to playing in a Six Nations or World Rugby U20 Championship,” added Melville.
“It means players are playing every week and will have a program for the year and will not be struggling to find games. It will allow them to learn how to prepare, recover and analyze games.”
There is also a change to the rules relating to loan players. Loan players loaned from/to the Aviva Premiership (Level 1) and Greene King IPA Championship (Level 2) can now move freely between clubs any number of times up until the transfer deadline.
However, an application for registration of a loan player will only be accepted where in respect of Aviva Premiership clubs (Level 1) the applicant club is a Greene King IPA Championship club. Also in respect of Greene King IPA Championship clubs (Level 2) and below, the applicant club is no more than two levels below the level of the loaning/parent club.
It is also hoped the standard of the Greene King IPA Championship will improve as a result of the new rules.
“We have a lot of EAPs playing in the National Leagues but we would like more in the Championship as it’s a higher level of competition.
“If we can lower the younger age of the Championship then that is a good thing for it as it will make it a young, vibrant competition where a lot of our potential stars of the future are playing on a regular basis. Yes, it’s nice to have some older heads in teams to bring on the younger players, but it’s also good to see young players out there.”