RFU urged to establish centre
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) should develop a National Performance Centre that will be operational by 2016, a review into England's elite structure has recommended.
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Sir Ian McGeechan and Peter Keen presented the findings of their five-month review to the RFU board on Wednesday and made four main recommendations.
The biggest of those calls for rugby to follow football's lead and establish a performance centre of the kind which opened last year at St George's Park in Burton.
According to the review, the centre should "provide the world's best developmental environment for players and staff. The RFU should aim for it to be operational within 12 months of the end of the Rugby World Cup in 2015 to take advantage of the momentum gained."
Although the review concluded that rugby was in "good shape with a bounty of young talent," it also judged that the RFU's structure was "complicated" and that the demands of club and country are "a challenge".
The lack of a dedicated national training centre was deemed a "barrier to the alignment of all England senior and age-grade team activities, as well as the development of coaches".
RFU chief executive officer Ian Ritchie said: "I am very grateful to both Ian and Peter for being so thorough and for spending so much time analysing the various aspects that surround and underpin England performance.
"Both are acknowledged leaders in their respected fields of expertise, and it is heartening to hear we are in a good place.
"We are, however, determined to provide greater clarity and focus to the performance pathway and these recommendations will help us deliver that."
Keen, the architect of Great Britain's Olympic success from his time as performance director at UK Sport, said: "My task was to apply the same analysis to England Rugby as I have to other sports striving to be the very best in the world.
"What I found compared favourably with some of the very best practice I have observed in elite sport. I have been impressed by the quality of the people, their thinking and their actions.
"I have also been struck by the strong values and culture of rugby. Although areas for change and improvement have been identified, these align well with the momentum already building towards the 2015 World Cup.
"England Rugby needs accelerated evolution, not revolution."
McGeechan stressed the need for co-operation between the RFU and clubs, adding: "The strength of relationships between the clubs and the RFU is paramount for the professional game in England to develop fully.
"We have spent many months talking to a wide variety of people on this very subject, and it is clear that great strides have been taken in this area, particularly with the coaches.
"The collaborative relationships must continue to be strengthened for the good of the game, so that everyone benefits.
"This integrated approach, across every facet of performance, will create a thriving base of professional players. From this base a strong club game, and even stronger international game, will continue to evolve so all the game's inherent potential is realised."