By KEITH PUARIA
SCHOOLBOYS rugby union is set to return to the paddocks, out of hibernation from a little more than a decade ago.
The programme, known to have unearthed some of the most gifted rugby players to ever put on a Pukpuk jumper, is currently work-in-progress, ahead of the start of the next season.
Schoolboy rugby will come in line with PNGRFUs plans for concentrated junior development, which will also run hand-in-hand with the return of 2006 concept, Mangi Rugby.
The re-establishment of the junior programme in schools comes with the union’s focus on developing rugby in the country from the junior level, with a vision to eventually have the PNG version of Australia’s Walla Rugby, Pukpuk Rugby going then, with the lower age divisions of eight and 12 years.
Speaking to The National yesterday, Billy Rapilla, one of PNG rugby’s finds of the 1980s and 1990s schoolboy programme, confirmed that about eight schools had shown interest in the initiative and a format is being put together before any final decisions would be made.
Rapilla hinted that the format would involve the age groups of 14, 16, and 18 years old, in both schoolboy and Mangi rugby programmes.
The return of Mangi rugby will, however, be targeted more at developing juniors at the rural areas within the city first, and eventually reaching out to the outside centres.
This will be aimed at the settlement children, who not in school or living on the city fringes.
Both developments will also utilise senior players in the technical areas of the game like refereeing and coaching.
Discussions are currently in progress with the proper and interested parties, before the programme starts.
Mangi rugby has already been earmarked to commence in February.
Meanwhile, U20 squads in Port Moresby and Lae will trial over the weekend, for their own squads to the final trial next Jan 30.
A 35-man squad will be selected then to travel to Moscow, Russia, for the International Rugby Board Junior World Cup.