This past weekend saw players from four of the Saints’ Developing Player Programme centres head to Stowe School for the club’s first DPP Festival.
The Under-13, Under-14 and Under-15 age group players from the four sub-counties within the East Midlands region – Northampton Alliance, East Northants, Huntingdon and Peterborough, and Bedfordshire – with each centre providing a team in each age group to play in a round-robin format.
In all over 400 youngsters were involved, supported by plenty of coaches and parents, too, and Elite Player Development Group manager Ross Stewart says that events like this are a good stepping stone in the players’ development.
“These DPP match events are an integral part of the players' development,” he said. “This year is the first year of our amalgamation going in to four sub counties, and this is really the first opportunity the players have got to come together as a team and just run around and play some games.
“What's impressed me really has been the quality of the players. They have had no time to prepare for the games; they've just been thrown onto a pitch and told to enjoy themselves and play a quick expansive game and that for me proves that these kids can do it. As coaches we just have to set the scene and allow them to do a little bit more.
“We are very fortunate that we are in a strong rugby area, with the East Midlands and Eastern Counties both home to some talented rugby players. However we can’t bring any players through without the clubs’ and the coaches’ support. They see these players week in, week out, and from our point of view it really is a partnership.
“We've had huge success in the Academy, and lots of good players have come through. We also have a part to play in ensuring our whole area stays ahead of everywhere else, in terms of the quality of our local teams, quality of coaching delivered, and in the school teams.”
A film about the DPP Festival can be seen now at www.youtube.com/SaintsTV, and the full interview with Ross Stewart will be available in this week’s podcast later in the week at both www.soundcloud.com/official-saints-rugby and on iTunes.