England legend Jonny Wilkinson has thrown his support behind a new apprenticeship - on the eve of his country’s latest World Cup crunch match with old adversaries Australia.

The nation’s record points scorer, who won the 2003 World Cup against Australia with a famous drop goal, is now looking to the future for his sport.

As of today (18 October) talented rugby union players will be able to hone their skills to compete at the highest level through a Sporting Excellence Professional apprenticeship.

Speaking the day before England take on Australia in the quarter final of the current World Cup in Australia, the former fly-half tackled the issue of how promising youngsters can earn a living as they are trained to become stars of the future. He said:

“I’d always encourage young people to follow their passions as far as they possibly can. If that means taking part in sporting activities, then this is fantastic. Apprenticeships can provide the opportunity for any young person to get their foot in the door with professional sport. I have been involved in rugby squads where I have enjoyed working alongside apprentices and watched them play key roles in the success of the team and go on to forge exciting careers in the game.”

Rugby league, cricket and football are also part of the Sporting Excellence Professional apprenticeship.

In addition to Rugby Union clubs, Rugby League and cricket clubs are also as of today now able to use the apprenticeship, which had previously only been open to football clubs as of May this year.

The Rugby Football Union and Rugby Football League worked together with football’s Premier League and English Football League, and the England and Wales Cricket Board to develop this apprenticeship.

The Institute’s Chief Executive, Sir Gerry Berragan, welcomed the move for new government-supported apprenticeships – which have expanded massively across different professions in recent years (there are now more than 500 available in total) - to move into the field of professional sport.

He said:

“This announcement will hopefully give those with a passion for sport another chance to potentially achieve their dream. It is encouraging that so many employers have been involved with the development of this standard and I’m sure we will see the benefits in the future.”

The Sporting Excellence Professional apprenticeship standard sets out the key knowledge, skills and behaviours that apprentices will have to master before completing. The key duties expected of a Sporting Excellence Professional are that they should:

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  • effectively and successfully represent their employer on the field of play at a local, regional, national or international level;
  • undertake a daily training routine, supported by a multi-disciplinary team, to ensure they retain and develop the technical, tactical, physical and psychological skills necessary for performing at the professional level;
  • practice a lifestyle conducive to maintaining a high level of performance;
  • act as an ambassador for their employer, sport and governing body in relation to younger players, fans and the local community – including their approach to diversity, equality and inclusion; and
  • actively plan for life after their sporting career and to supplement the next phase of playing contract.
 

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