NZ Rugby supports North Harbour's decision to axe junior rep teams, hints other provinces could follow suit

Source: 1News

New Zealand Rugby has come out in support of a province's radical decision to cut some of their junior representative teams and believes other regions should look at making the same call as well.

North Harbour Rugby made the decision last week to scrap age-grade representative competitions for under 14s and now the national body is creating an age-grade rugby guide for other provinces to follow.

NZ Rugby's Head of Participation and Development Steve Lancaster told TVNZ1's Breakfast it's about the kids.

"We believe that rugby is a late specialisation sport," Lancaster said.

"It's important for kids to play as many sports as possible for as long as possible and to have enjoyable experiences in doing that so this decision helps enable kids to do that."

Lancaster said representative competition at such a young age can damage both selected and yet-to-be discovered talent from staying in the game.

"There's a growing amount of evidence that shows that kids that enter representative programmes at an earlier are more likely to exit at an earlier age," he said.

"Kids develop at different rates - we don't want to see kids sent a signal that they don't have potential at an age where it's too early to know."

Lancaster added it's "possible" North Harbour's decision could be followed up in other provinces.

"We've made our position clear that we don't see a lot of value in under 14 representative rugby or below in terms of developing future elite talent... in fact it can have the opposite effect.

"We also think it's important that we're fostering participation and that comes from good experiences - kids want to play with their mates and have a good time so lets let them do that."