Ulster Rugby's new Academy Manager, Gavin Hogg has been speaking to URTV about his time so far at the helm of the province's High Performance pathway.
"It's been a really exciting first few months for me since the appointment at the end of June. It's been great to get to know the players and better understand how the pathway and the programme work. It's been a challenging few months for us - it's been a very busy period for our Age-Grade teams working over at Newforge as part of their summer programme and integrating the Academy players into the Seniors' training schedule. It's certainly something I've embraced and we have embraced as a staff team. I'm really looking forward to what the next few months will bring.
"I think it's worth mentioning the great work that went on in the previous years from Kieran (Campbell). The programme is in a really good place; we've some fantastic, strong foundations and it puts us in a really good place to further improve things moving forward.
"Over the next few months and years, our real ambition is to improve the pathway from entry at Under-16 level right through to the Academy and hopefully into the Senior game. For us, there's a lot of exciting work over the past few months around looking at a season-long programme for Under-16s and 17s. Hopefully, we'll start to reap the rewards of that over the next 2-3 years. We've some fantastic ideas in terms of how we can make our programme more integrated to include things like athletic development, nutrition and medical support within those areas as well.
"It's been great to welcome Willie (Faloon) into the coaching team. He would be somebody that I've certainly been working with over the past couple of years in my previous role in Rugby Development. We all understood the fantastic work Willie has done within the club and school game. He's always looking inside and has been actively involved in our summer programmes and working with Age-Grade squads. For us, he brings a real level of technical expertise. It's been great to see some of the individual relationships he has formed really quickly with the players. Coming from that professional playing background and what he's done within the coaching game brings a great deal of respect. Willie just brings a different dynamic to our staff team. We've got people with different coaching styles and philosophies; that's really good in terms of how we challenge each other and how we can support each other moving forward.
"Over the course of the next 12 months, we want to know our players up and down the pathway and create a support network from our staff for the players up and down the pathway. Also we want to get to know the players at Academy level with 12 guys we've got contracted. It's been really good to get to know them on an individual level and to provide the support to enable them to achieve their ambitions and go on to be professional rugby players."