Sinfield welcomes return of Reserve Grade for 2020

Leeds Rhinos Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield has welcomed the decision from the Rugby Football League and Super League Europe to relaunch the Reserve Grade competition in 2020.

The 11 English Betfred Super League clubs have approved a proposal for all Super League clubs, and clubs with Category 1 funded Academies outside Super League (Widnes Vikings and Bradford Bulls), to have a mandated reserve team.

Five further applications from clubs in Betfred Championship and League One have been received, with decisions to be made by the end of July.

The launch of Reserve Grade will be accompanied by a change in the regulations surrounding the Academy, which will now become an Under-18s competition rather than Under-19s, as at present. The dual registration and loan systems will remain unaffected.

Sinfield says the team is crucial to the development of the Rhinos squad and the game as a whole and says the sport needs to make up for lost time in recent years when there has been no reserve team competition.

The former Rhinos skipper commented, “The Reserve Grade competition is vitally important to our game. We have missed it and I think we have missed a trick with the development of our young players by not having the competition for a number of years now.

“Clubs were forced to make a decision on academy players at Under 19 level which is unfair on both the player and those people who have worked so hard to develop that player from scholarship level and before that in their community clubs. I am delighted that the development pathway has been extended.

“I came through the Academy when we had a reserve team and it was a great competition for young players to develop alongside and against senior players. The older guys were looking to pick up their form and regain a first team place whilst the young players were learning their trade and trying to show the coaching staff what they could do.

“Eight of last year’s victorious England Academy side that defeated the Australian Schoolboys are in our academy system and the Reserve Grade will be a vital tool in their development. We will also have the opportunity to use dual registration and loan periods because each player is an individual and needs different levels of development.

“This year Jamie Jones-Buchanan celebrates his 20th season at Leeds and he has achieved so much for his club and country over two successful decades. But I remember when he started out and struggled with injuries. He needed time to recover and then the opportunity to show what he could do in the reserve team. We will never know how many players like Jamie we might have missed out on in the past few years but the return of the reserve grade ensures that pathway is now back in place. At a time when nearly all sports have decreasing levels of participation it is vital that we give our own talent the best possible opportunity to shine,” added Sinfield.