Jul 08, 2015
A-League standard on the up - Hynard
After a scintillating end to the 2014/15 campaign, the Aviva A League is set for its most explosive season yet according to Premiership Rugby’s Head of Academies and Development, Mike Hynard.
Maro Itoje led Saracens Storm to a 27-19 victory over Worcester Cavaliers in front of over 4,000 people in January’s final at Sixways, in a stunning game that showcased the best the league had to offer.
That side included the likes of Ben Ransom, Ben Spencer and Nick Tompkins alongside Itoje, who all went on to shine for Sarries in Aviva Premiership Rugby later on in the season.
And as the fixtures for the coming season are released today, Hynard insists fans can expect more of the same when the competition gets underway again in November.
“The standard of the Aviva A League seems to get better every year, and the last couple in particular it has really gone up and up,” he said.
“Both semi-finals and the final last year were fantastic games of rugby, with everyone showing a lot of fight – that is the level we are looking to recreate.
“The quality of the players involved is ever improving, and there is a nice blend of senior players alongside developing academy players who are looking for opportunities to wear the club shirt and showcase their talent to a director of rugby.
“That’s the blend we’re looking for and last year the average age of the teams was 22.4, which is fantastic as it shows this is a competition for player development.
“Particularly this year, with the World Cup and no LV= Cup, the Aviva A League will be very important as it provides the vehicle for players to showcase their skills and push for selection in their Premiership teams.”
The Storm kick-off their title defence on November 23 with a tricky trip to Exeter Braves, who would have been bitterly disappointed to just miss out on a semi-final berth last term.
Elsewhere, beaten finalists Worcester take on Sale Jets, and semi-finalists Newcastle Falcons welcome Northampton Wanderers.
But Hynard admits his excitement is already building for another Aviva A League final showcase, which this year will be held in May.
He added: “Because of the World Cup we are working to a different time period.
“Having a break and then the final in May when a lot of other finals will be going on means it should all add to a fantastic occasion and a great game of rugby.
“There will be good weather, hard pitches, and no excuses not to play an open and flowing match.
“You’d expect Saracens to be strong again this year as they have a great academy programme, but I’d expect with no LV= Cup the level of competition will be higher than ever before. I’m sure there will be strong challenges from several other clubs and I believe the quality and level of competition will be better than ever.
“I think we’ll see all clubs really buying into the Aviva A League competition, and putting both senior players and academy players into there teams, as that will be their route to playing first team rugby.
“So I’m very excited about what we’re going to see.”