Cardiff Blues have linked up with Hartpury College in a new collaboration which will benefit the region’s homegrown academy talent.
The collaboration will see some of Cardiff Blues’ brightest talents remaining with the region, while studying for A level and diploma qualifications at the Gloucestershire-based education establishment.
The college has a proud history of alumni who have gone on to feature in professional rugby, including the likes of Alex Cuthbert, Andries Pretorius, Ross Moriarty, Louis Rees-Zammit, Ellis Genge and Jonny May.
The first Cardiff Blues player to benefit from the new relationship will be Louie Hennessy-Booth, who signed his first academy deal with his home region earlier this season.
The centre, who signed the deal alongside age grade team-mates Harrison James and McKenzie Martyn, will study A Levels at Hartpury from September, while remaining in regular contact with the region’s academy staff.
Cardiff Blues Head Coach John Mulvihill said: “We have some great partnerships within our region and are proud of our development pathway with some excellent rugby and educational opportunities.
“However, we must keep broadening our horizons as, for many young players and their parents, there is the natural urge to look at different opportunities and benefits.
"When we look through an objective lens, and our academy staff have spent quality time with Wayne and his department, it is clear that Hartpury has similarly aligned programmes that promote rugby excellence with fantastic educational support, which is really important in helping our players grow on and off the field.
“Academy manager Gruff Rees and our academy staff are delighted to work closely with Hartpury and feel it will be great for Louie to challenge himself in a different environment but with appropriate A-level options and a strong support network with his family and ongoing connection and time with Cardiff Blues.
“Gruff has worked with the family over many months and he is thrilled to support Louie and look forward to the next couple of years.”
Wayne Thompson, Manager of the Junior Rugby Academy at Hartpury, said: “We’re delighted to be working with regional clubs in Wales to provide their academy players with an opportunity to gain an academic qualification from an Ofsted Outstanding institution as well as continuing to play rugby with their respective regions.
“Providing students with access to the dual career pathway, as a TASS Dual Career Accredited Site, is an extremely important part of what we do at Hartpury.
“An increasing number of players aged 16 to 18 are realising that it would be rewarding for their future career prospects to gain an academic qualification alongside their chosen rugby academy.
“As a specialist institution, we try to be as flexible as possible with the diploma and A-level courses that college-level students can study, which means they can combine different subject areas with their rugby development.
“It means our students can fully capture a broad range of academic disciplines and continue to play top-level rugby, which they may not be able to do elsewhere, so they enjoy the best of both worlds.”