Wellington is the latest in a growing number of provincial rugby unions to remove under-13 representative rugby from their programme.

A move already made in North Harbour, Canterbury, Auckland, Southland, Otago, South Canterbury, Taranaki and Tasman, the youngest representative team in the Wellington Rugby Football Union will be under-16.

WRFU head of community rugby Will Caccia-Birch said the change was made as there was clear evidence that the selection or non-selection of players at under-13 level was considered counter-productive in increasing and retaining players at junior level.

The union will now put a concentrated emphasis on skill development for all junior players instead of a select few, with New Zealand rugby endorsing the approach. It's a move that is expected to be adopted by all provincial unions eventually.


"We want to give all boys and girls who sign up to play rugby at their clubs and primary schools the best possible experience to develop their skills, whether that be in contact rugby or non-contact versions of the game such as Rippa Rugby or Quick Rip," Caccia-Birch said.

"The moment we start selecting a relatively small number of players on supposed talent and potential at this age, we are immediately neglecting a significant number of budding young players, who at 10, 11 or 12 years of age, are only just beginning their rugby."

More than 350 junior players are registered in Wellington under-13 grades and will be able to take advantage of further development as opposed to a group of just 25 who would ordinarily be involved in the representative programme. The move was part of a wider shift driven by New Zealand Rugby in an attempt to stop players moving away from rugby when they entered high school.

North Harbour was the first union to make the changes, with the Herald revealing they would be ending their junior representative programme in late February.

"Harbour's purpose is 'Improving Lives, Through Rugby', and when it comes to our community we want to maximise engagement and grow participation through quality experiences," the union's general manager David Gibson said at the time.

"For us this means cultivating a climate of development and fun around our junior rugby programmes and putting the kids at the centre of the experience."