A new independent academy has been launched in a bid to educate and develop the next wave of Wallabies stars — and a stack of Australian rugby legends will lend their support and expertise.
It’s a welcome piece of positive news for Australian rugby, which has endured a turbulent year culminating in a quarter-final exit at the World Cup.
The International Rugby Academy of Australia’s (IRAA) aim is to “maximise the potential of young Australian rugby talent and to strengthen the pathways and opportunities that are unique to the game of rugby union”.
The IRAA — launched in Sydney on Friday — kicks off in January and is virtually a duplicate model of the International Rugby Academy established in New Zealand, which has since been implemented in South Africa.
The International Rugby Academy of New Zealand (IRANZ) was founded by All Black greats Murray Mexted and Sean Fitzpatrick in 2002 and has produced more than 100 graduates who have gone on to earn international honours as players or coaches.
“What they’ve done in New Zealand in quite outstanding,” David Mortimer, director of the Australian Schoolboys Rugby Foundation, said at the launch.
“We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, we wanted to duplicate something that is done and we’re going to draw on the Australian skillbase we have and we’ve had tremendous support from our ex-Wallabies and various All Blacks and from Murray’s academy itself to make this work.”
Mexted was in attendance at the launch of the IRAA on Friday and was joined by a host of Wallabies legends in Michael Lynagh (Patron of IRAA), Matt Burke, David Campese, John Eales, George Gregan, Rod Kafer and Phil Kearns, as well as women’s players Emily Chancellor and Georgia Page, who will also be coaches and ambassadors for the academy.
The not-for-profit academy will have courses at world-class facilities at Sydney Olympic Park designed for young men aged 11-12, 13-15 and 16-18 years, and for young women aged 16-18 years.
Coaching courses are designed for coaches of players aged 13-15 years and for players aged 16-18 years.