Ahead of the start of this season’s U18 Academy league, SaleSharks.com caught up with Academy Manager, Brendan Thomas and U18s Academy Coach, Warren Spragg to preview the big kick-off on Sunday December 18th.
The summer has been a busy pre-season for the side and Brendan gave insight into the matches that have prepared his team:
“The U18’s group they came in, in the summer. We went over to Ireland and played Munster and Connacht and had two successful outings there. We also played in the RFU festival against the other academies, now they’ve come back to weekly training to prepare for the U18s league”
Warren also described the areas that are specifically being targeted in training ahead of their opening fixture against Worcester and why these skills will be key to any future success:
“There’s been a lot of work on individual skill, which is really important to make sure each individual is getting better. At the moment, the lads are looking at transitioning from attacking to defence, defence into attack and where they can organise into an attacking shape. We’re also looking at play from lineout, play from scrum and play from kick-offs just so they’ve got that general organisation”
The talent being displayed on the field is obviously one important aspect of measuring success and development, but Brendan highlights how working with players as individuals outside of rugby can help build them as both players and people:
“Warren Spragg heads up the U18 so he’s very hands on with them and Neill Briggs works with him on that. We also have the staff such as Rob Simpson and Josh Walker, who are really close to the players and my role as manager is putting those people in place. I build the relationships with players more off the pitch in terms of their personality, psychology and what they need to progress”
Another thing that the U18s coaches see as vital for the growth of young players is the integration between various age groups, so that there is a clear vision of what lies ahead, as Warren states:
“Something that we feel we’re doing quite well at the moment is connecting our pathways. Whether that’s U15/16’s players getting an understanding of our 18’s group or the U18s working with the Sale Jets. Having a young scrum half training at the stadium then seeing Faf De Klerk play for an hour and a half, that inspires the next generation. If our academy players can be fans of the club and love the club, then we’re in a good place”
We wish the U18s all the best in the season ahead and will be following the team every step of the way!