Wallabies greats on hand to launch new rugby academy

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

A host of Test greats were on hand to launch International Rugby Academy Australia on Friday, a program aiming to help grow coaches and players in Australia.

IRAA is a duplicate of New Zealand's IRANZ, first started by former All Blacks Sean Fitzpatrick and Murray Mexted back in 2002 and has produced close to 100 international graduates.

Players of a range of ages go through a three-week course that includes one-on-one and group coaching and hopes to help develop coaching and playing talent.

Aussies including Scotland defence coach and former Wallaby Mike Harris have both been participants of the IRANZ program.

Wallabies legends Michael Lynagh, Nick Farr-Jones, George Gregan, Phil Kearns and John Eales were among the crowd in Sydney on Friday at the Australian program's official launch.

Lynagh is the patron for IRAA and said he felt compelled to be a part of the "positive" initiative.

"I think it's very positive just to have a group of people who want to work in line with Australian rugby and what Australian rugby wants to achieve," he said.

"Their goal is absolutely for the game to be better for the coaches to be better for young players to have opportunities and that has to be a good thing.

"And then you look at the actual structure of how it's going to be done and you've got a very positive environment, you've got an environment that's unique because you're bringing in people who aren't necessarily day-to-day coaches, aren't career coaches but they have something to offer the game and you're getting them in a concentrated way with the talent as it's coming through."

Michael Lynagh is the patron of the IRAA. Photo: AJF PhotographyEales said he felt the opportunity for players and coaches would create a major impact on Australian rugby.

"I think it's very positive just to have a group of people who want to work in line with Australian rugby and what Australian rugby wants to achieve," he said.

"Their goal is absolutely for the game to be better for the coaches to be better for young players to have opportunities and that has to be a good thing.

"And then you look at the actual structure of how it's going to be done and you've got a very positive environment, you've got an environment that's unique because you're bringing in people who aren't necessarily day-to-day coaches, aren't career coaches but they have something to offer the game and you're getting them in a concentrated way with the talent as it's coming through."

Mexted wasn't promising miracles when he spoke at Friday's launch, saying coaches and players from the program would start to come through in five years.

IRAA isn't affiliated with Rugby Australia but has the support of the organisation.

The courses are designed for young men aged 11-12, 13-15 and 16-18, and for young women aged 16-18.

Coaching courses are designed for coaches of players aged 13-15 years and for players aged 16-18 years.

The first program will be run in January 2020 at the Sydney Olympic Park.