Ten team Premiership can work, but only if you give youth a chance – McIntosh

14 Apr

McIntosh says coaches must be brave to help Welsh rugby develop


PONTYPRIDD coach Dale McIntosh believes a 10-team Premiership can be beneficial for Welsh rugby – but only if coaches are brave enough to give youth a chance.

The Welsh Rugby Union want to implement the changes for the 2012-2013 season with the likes of Bedwas and Tonmawr among those cut from a 14-team league.

The reshuffle is designed to give players a more competitive league in which to learn their trade and help them progress to regional rugby.

McIntosh – whose side can regain top spot in the Principality Welsh Premiership tonight by winning at Llanelli (7.15pm) – believes that is all well and good as long as the youngsters actually get the chance to play.

“We’ve got to get the balance right,” McIntosh said.

“With regional rugby we’ve created a bit of a bottleneck where we’re in danger of forcing talent across the bridge or abroad, so we have to make sure young guys are getting the game-time they need.

“I’m not saying no-one over 30 should be playing Premiership rugby.

“You need those guys to mentor the young players and there are still some top players out there of that age.

“But what coaches must understand is you can still win games and develop players.”

And his Ponty side, still chasing a treble after reaching the Swalec Cup final last weekend, are a prototype in how to find that balance.

“We had four or five 17-year-olds out there on Saturday against Swansea.

“I’m a big believer in the old adage that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.

“They can’t just be there for the sake of it, they have to be ready, but guys like Cory Hill, Owen Sheppeard and Lewis Jones more than fill the jersey.”

And McIntosh believes this blend has been behind Ponty’s tremendous season so far.

He said: “Richard Webster (Swansea coach) was gracious enough to say we have the full package.

“It’s a good environment to be in, we are a tight team. We have academy boys from the Blues, but they are all valley boys, everything is there.”

McIntosh knows he needs to keep his players focused for a huge end-of-season run-in, which includes a British and Irish Cup semi-final with Bristol at Sardis Road, the Swalec Cup final and the race to the Premiership grand final.

“There’s a lot of pressure on the players and ourselves, but it is our job to manage them through the mental and physical pressures,” he said.

“Through regionalisation, Ponty took a real kick in the guts. If we are successful this season maybe we’ll relieve some of that pain.

“It would be brilliant for Ponty and the whole valleys area, particularly all the clubs like Ystrad Rhondda, Treorchy, Mountain Ash and Aberdare, who support us and give us players.

“And for the supporters who follow us everywhere through thick and thin. It would be a dream come true for everyone.

“We need to forget about the Swansea game and look ahead now to the league now.

“We need a win at Llanelli to keep Neath honest, but it’s a tough place to go.

“They are a very good side, particularly at home, so it will be a massive challenge.”

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