The support, long-term development and selection of our best young players in the U15-18 year age group is seen as a critical underpinning component of the plan to ensure Australia remains a dominant world rugby power. In order to achieve significant results in the youth talent development area, Australian Rugby has sought to build an aligned and systematic model of programs that ensure greatest access to all players (and potential players) as well as make best use of current resources. 

In late 2009 the Australian Rugby Union relaunched the National Talent Squad (NTS) program to become the National Gold Squad (NGS) and Junior Gold Program (JGP) operating under the overarching national talent development program titled Rugby’s Pathway to Gold.
The nationally lead and coordinated program is conducted at various levels throughout Australia seeking to provide genuine access and opportunities to all talented players. The program purpose is:
  1. To provide high level talent development access and opportunities for the potential best young players (U15-18yrs) in Australia; and
  2. To provide nationally coordinated expert coaching to all players selected in national talent development programs. The coaching and education will be lead by nationally developed long term player development models that will support the players to reach their potential and perform at the highest levels of rugby in future years (Super Rugby and Wallabies). Players will be developed both on and off the field in order to provide ‘Whole of Player’ development; and
  3. To select players to graduate into higher level talent development programs that have proven to have the commitment and potential performance levels required at these higher levels; and
  4. To compliment and actively support key stakeholder programs and activities
National models for skill and physical development have been developed by the ARU’s High Performance Unit including involvement by key Wallaby coaching staff. The off-field development of Australia’s best young players is viewed as equally as important as their skill and physical development. Accordingly, the program invests heavily in various life skills education providing all players with the tools to handle not only high level rugby representation, but also to become better young men. The Pathway to Gold Life Skills program engages experts from Griffith University in Queensland to deliver comprehensive and direct education to both players and parents on what to expect and how certain decisions can have a huge impact on ambition.
Importantly, all programs highlight that selection into national development programs does not guarantee any future involvement or selection at higher levels in the pathway. Not all players will graduate into professional rugby programs. Players are encouraged to become the best they can be and work hard to ensure they are ready and equipped to take up any opportunity that presents itself through the pathway. The program highlights that hard work and commitment to develop overrides talent alone.
The National Gold Squad and Junior Gold Program is supported by Rugby’s Pathway to Gold Talent Discovery program and ensure alignment with key competition and representative pathways (see the High Performance Player Pathway). The program’s servicing model also seeks to assist and compliment other key stakeholders such as junior clubs, schools and representative programs by targeting the education and support of both players and coaches.
To enable widespread access and to offer high level development opportunities to more players across Australia the following national talent development program model – Rugby’s Pathway to Gold - has been developed: