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Sunderland proud of their youth policy.

Byline: By Alan Hedley

Sunderland are looking forward to the season with relish as new chairman Andy Kyle hopes to reap the rewards of a successful mini and junior policy.

One of the reasons for optimism lies in the club's Under-18 squad - many of whom have been at Ashbrooke from the age of six.

Last season the team was named the Durham and Cleveland side of the season and captain James Kyle, Andy's son, picked up the awards at the joint Keith Pattinson Journal Trophy and NE Rugby ceremony at Newcastle Falcons.

They also swept all before them in a competition held in The Hague, winning all seven games against teams from England, Holland and France. Mini and junior co-ordinator Paul Geehan was particularly thrilled with the Dutch experience as generous sponsorship had allowed him to take three sides and supporters abroad.

The success of the mini and junior policy has already been seen at a higher level with John Gregson and Danny Thompson, who played beside each other at club, school and county level for 12 years.

Now 19, both are at Leeds University, but received a recall to play in a vital first team relegation match at the end of last season. The match was won by a whisker and relegation was avoided with Danny scoring the vital try.

* THE Borders take on Connacht at Netherdale on Friday night with coach Tony Gilbert declaring their Celtic Cup opener is a huge, huge game.

"We had a close game against Connacht last season in the first match The Borders ever played and we were disappointed to lose that game," said Gilbert.

"However, this season Connacht has won 11-3 against Edinburgh Rugby and we were thrashed 53-7 in Edinburgh last weekend, so to be competitive against Connacht we will have to be right up to the mark.

"We will have the advantage of playing at home but right now we need everything we can get. We have been tremendously disappointing in losing 49-12 at Netherdale to Celtic Warriors and then on last Friday's trip to Edinburgh.

"We may have an inexperienced side and some long-term injuries but on Friday night the challenge for us against Connacht will be to be competitive against them.

After Friday's defeat by Edinburgh, Gilbert reported no injuries with Jono Stuart and Craig Moir possibly able to resume full training this week, with Cammie Murray and Matt Taylor both still a couple of weeks away from a return.

Meanwhile, the Borders will run two major events for schoolchildren this week, as the team officially launches the start of this season's community programme.

Tomorrow, the squad will host an open training session at Berwickshire High School in Duns, at 11.15am. This will be followed by a question-and-answer session, involving pupils at the school and the Borders' playing and coaching staff.

The visit is the first of a tour for the Borders around schools in the area. That session is followed on Friday by a floodlit tag rugby tournament run in conjunction with the Scottish Borders Rugby Union and around 200 children representing 20 schools will gather at Netherdale to compete against each other in the tournament which starts at 5pm.

"The players are keen to engage with the community in this way, said Gilbert. It can be difficult at times to get out there and meet people, but moving our training sessions around gives us a good opportunity."

* OLSTON Collegiate retained the IDPartnership(Northern) Tynedale International Schools title beating Barnard Castle in the final at Corbridge.

Colston's played probably the best rugby seen in their four years at the tournament and dominated the competition, beating Edinburgh Academy 31-0, Yarm 17-0, King's Tynemouth 450, Giggleswick 330 in the group matches.

They then beat Edinburgh Academy again 33-0 in the semi-finals and Barnard Castle 31-0 in a repeat of last year's final.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 16, 2003
Words:644
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