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Junior Grade Structure changes for 2022 and beyond


Junior rugby focuses on fun, acceptance, belonging and safety (FABS) - all key values required for a child to enjoy and engage in rugby.  

Last year Wellington Rugby Football Union (WRFU) and the Junior Rugby Advisory Board (JRAB) undertook a comprehensive review of the age and weight grade structure here in Wellington due to the ongoing concerns of stakeholders and a desire to better meet the needs of our players. 

A focus was to ensure that players are able to play with their peer group whilst also allowing more players to enjoy the benefits of playing in a grade that best meets their level of cognitive development. 

Some of the challenges JRAB and Clubs identified are: 

·Player retention especially through the tackle grades  

·Age Cut-Off 1st Jan: This has implications in the latter junior years, particularly for the Under 13 grade. NZR have agreed making change of cut-off would be acceptable based on the age band criteria and development model. 

·Weight Limits  

·Pathways & Entry Points: Key challenges young players face being moved are that they are not cognitively ready to play that development stage with older children. Importantly Players miss key development phases and skill acquisition when moved based on weight. 

·Cognitive Development: The 5 key factors to ensure children are in the correct grade:   

·Social need (being with friends), 

·Operational thought (how they solve problems), 

·Fundamental movement ability (hand eye co-ordination, ball skills etc) 

·Improve their existing skills and develop new skills. 

·Meet Small Blacks FABS model: Fun, Acceptance, Belonging, Safe 

It was therefore recommended and ultimately endorsed by convenors the relevant committees that 2022 will see a new age grade structure introduced. 

Changes for 2022: 

·Players will play in school year: 

·Y1 Rippa (previously U6) 

·Y2 Rippa (previously U7) 

·Y3 Tackle (7 aside tackle, previously U8) 

·Y4 Tackle (10 aside tackle, previously U9) 

·Y5 Tackle (previously U10) 

·Y6 Tackle (previously U11) 

·Y7/8 Tackle restricted grade (15 aside tackle, previously U12/13. Weight limit 59kg) 

·Y7/8 Tackle open weight (previously U12/13) 

·Y3 (previously Under 8 and the first year of tackle) will not have a weight limit. Research shows children need to learn the fundamental skill of tackling, those who miss this grade are more likely to drop out earlier. WRFU & Club Game Development Officers have committed to Tackle Clinic delivery in this grade as a priority. 

·Weight limits will increase slightly to allow more tamariki to play in an appropriate grade for stage of development. 

What Isn’t Changing: 

·Children can choose to play up a grade 

·Small, lighter weight children can automatically play down a grade 

·The dispensation process will remain  

·Exceptional circumstances will continue to exist and these will be dealt with on an individual basis 

·Combined Rip grades will continue Y3/4; Y5/6; Y7/8 

·Game On remains across all grades 

Any change will have challenges. WRFU, JRAB and our club convenors are united in growing junior rugby in our region and supporting our tamariki and whanau through these changes to deliver a positive, fun experience - both on and off the rugby field. 

Any questions can be directed to your Club’s Junior Convenor in the first instance, otherwise please feel free to contact Lucy Barry - [email protected]