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U20 Junior World Cup success key for English investment

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allblacks.com     18 Dec 2013     Getty Images

England became the third winner of the Junior title after New Zealand and South Africa.

The New Zealand Under-20 team, four times winners from 2008 to 2011, conceded their crown to the Baby Boks in 2012, and the same team consigned the Kiwis to fourth place in the tournament played this year in France.

The 'boys in black' will have a chance to atone as the tournament is on home soil next year.

However for England, Ritchie applauded the senior team's performance in the recent internationals, which saw victories over Australia and Argentina precede a hard-fought defeat to all-conquering New Zealand, before glancing down the ladder at this last June's maiden Junior World Championship success.

“I think the autumn was very successful,” he said. “We beat Australia, which was a huge positive – we were the only northern hemisphere team to beat them. Then we were enormously competitive against New Zealand.

“There was a very solid win over Argentina too, so I think on the field it was fantastic. Off the pitch as an event, the three matches had great attendance and support, and that was helped by a great improvement in the facilities around the stadium.

“For positives on the pitch, the highlight has to be England Under 20 winning the Junior World Championship. This was exemplified by the new International Performance department.

“I’m delighted that Joe Lydon is here and Scott Drawer is joining to work alongside Matt Parker. We’ve really got a high calibre group of people looking at development pathways between men and women, sevens and 15s. I’m just really looking forward to that team contributing to 2014.”

Singling out All Schools – which featured Prince Harry's visit to Twickenham in October – and NatWest RugbyForce as “innovative schemes” that help to increase participation in the sport, Ritchie continued to praise the RFU’s focus on grassroots rugby and the community game.

Warning that plenty of hard work lies ahead in the lead-up to Rugby World Cup 2015 – a “catalyst and an opportunity” to grow the game in England – he also touched on a record revenue of £153 million over 2012/3.

With this year’s investment set to rise by 15 per cent to £64 million, Ritchie explained that a five-year strategic plan merges short- and long-term goals nicely.

“As you rightly say, what we’re all about here is investment back into the game. If you look at the five-year strategic plan, we’re going to invest a third of a billion pounds back into the game. That’s our raision d’etre.

“One of my great themes is integration. All of the constituent elements, whether that be participation or commercial or governance contribute together. Everyone in the organisation must feel like they contribute towards our main objective.

“You want to win every game, so while people talk about building towards 2015, you want to win on Saturday as well. That’s true for the RFU as well.

“You want to be successful in the short-term but plan for medium and long term as well. I think we’ve got an opportunity to work strategically, and that’s what we’ve done with the five-year plan.”