Duane Goodfield insists there are plenty of positives following another successful season for Cardiff Blues' youth development system.
16 pathway players have made their senior debuts for the region over the past 18-months, with youngsters such as Owen Lane, Seb Davies and Jarrod Evans eastblishing themselves as key members of the Cardiff Blues squad.
Goodfield is currently part of the academy backroom staff, alongside former Blues scrum-half, Richie Rees, and academy analyst, Steffan Bennett.
The former Cardiff Blues hooker, who also works with Wales’ Under-18 side, believes the experience of the region’s senior players has been invaluable to the youngsters’ development and he is optimistic about the new under-23 league, which will be introduced next season.
“The academy is strong at the moment, and we’ve also got strong rugby areas which can support that academy structure,” said the former Cardiff Blues hooker.
“The players coming through is of a strong calibre and our work with those players is proof that it has been working over the last few years.
“It’s important to blend them in with senior players, and make sure it’s right in order to allow the youngsters to flourish.
“With the senior players like Gethin Jenkins, Willis Halaholo, Rey Lee-Lo, you can play youngsters like Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Tomos Williams and Jarrod Evans around those players and it does make a massive difference.
“You look at players like Ellis Jenkins and Lloyd Williams, who have also come through the academy, alongside the young back row players we’ve got and boys like Tomos and Jarrod, it shows that the balance is getting better, and there is a good crop of players coming through together.
“It’s all about opportunity and providing enough opportunities for them to flourish in healthy and competitive competition.
“The under-23 competition will hopefully give us that next year, and give more opportunities for boys to play in our style and system and we can then keep a closer eye on them than every before.
“We’re really positive about the changes made next season. We’ve got a lot of youngsters and a lot of it is about the balance.
“Our senior team is currently very young, and a lot of our under-23-qualified players are actually key players in our senior squad.
“Our under-23 team is likely to be younger again, which will be a challenge, but an opportunity for boys to put their hands up and get noticed.”