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ACE rugby union team

Junior Men's (ACE) Rugby Union

The RFU's national leading under 18 development programme for performance players.

The Academy Colleges and Education (ACE) Rugby Union performance academy at Bishop Burton Sport is an RFU pathway development programme. 

It was introduced to provide the transition from academy standard rugby into the professional game.

If you are a talented 16-18-year-old male rugby player, this academy is designed for you. Its core focus is to support you to achieve academically whilst developing your rugby abilities ready to play at an elite level.

The academy has supported many players to develop and achieve their goals. Since 2017, over 60 players have been involved in international, academy and county squads. Many former students are now playing rugby in the National Leagues, Championship and Premiership.

With our coaching team’s extensive contacts throughout the rugby world, our students have been able to explore playing opportunities both in the UK and abroad.

AOC National 7s champions for the second year running

The Bishop Burton Sport academy compete in both the ACE Academy League and the Association of Colleges’ (AoC) Premier League.

The ACE Academy League is England Rugby’s leading under 18 competition, with all 14 RFU academy teams represented, including all premiership academies such as Leicester Tigers, Wasps, Bristol Bears, Harlequins etc.

Rugby training

As an ACE academy player, you will have privileged access to a unique integrated timetable, allowing you to access all academic lessons, plus 12-15 hours of rugby-specific content every week. This will give you the closest experience to a professional rugby player whilst in full-time education.

The schedule includes:

  • Technical and tactical skills
  • Performance analysis
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Psychology
  • Nutrition and meal planning
  • Media and communication skills
  • Career development and teamwork
  • Personal wellbeing
  • Lifestyle management
  • Developing culture, values and behaviours
ACE rugby union academy training

Dedicated accommodation for the squad

Our on-site student accommodation is the perfect place to get to know your new teammates. We have dedicated accommodation for our men's rugby players so that you can stay focused on your training and your studies. Our academic and sports facilities are just a stone's throw away and you'll have free access to our gym.

Being a residential student is recommended, but not essential.

Entry requirements

All players must first be accepted as a student on one of Bishop Burton's college level courses before being considered for the ACE Rugby academy.

Meet the coaches

Evan Woodworth ACE Rugby Union

Evan Woodworth

Having previously worked in the Community Game and coaching our Women's team, Evan is passionate about creating a pathway for rugby players to flourish in Yorkshire. He is focused on developing player and position-specific skills whilst promoting high-performance training habits in his athletes.

Tomasi Tanumi Ace Rugby Coach

Tomasi Tanumi

Tomasi leads on the DiSE qualification and is the Assistant Coach for our ACE Academy. Tomasi is a specialist skills coach.

Richard Kaisia ACE Rugby Development Squad Coach

Richard Kaisia

ACE Rugby Development Squad Coach

Supporting the ACE Rugby Academy is Richard Kaisia. Hailing from Nelson, NZ, Richie learnt his craft at Nelson College who produced All Blacks such as David Havili, Ethan Blackadder and Ireland International James Lowe.

Overseeing the development squad, Richie plays a key role in transitioning players into the ACE Squad and supporting Evan in developing Bishop Burton College’s newest talents. He has a keen eye for assessing defensive partners and works closely with the team to develop performance game habits with the players.

Mike Umaga Head of Rugby Bishop Burton

Mike Umaga

Director of Rugby

Our rugby academies are led by Mike Umaga, our Director of Rugby. Mike is a former professional rugby union and rugby league player who represented Samoa in two World Cups.

With more than 20 years of coaching experience, Mike has a vast knowledge of player development, having coached across junior age groups, national, championship and premiership leagues as well as internationally and is a Level 4 coach.

With Mike's extensive contacts throughout the rugby world, students have been able to explore playing pathways both in the UK and abroad.

Partnered with England Rugby

Bishop Burton College is proud to have been selected as a partner by England Rugby. As one of only eight colleges in the UK to be chosen, we act as a flagship college, upholding a safe, inclusive and player-centred approach. Utilising the RFUs Rugby Safe coach and match official training programmes to upskill current players and coaches, we aim to advocate RFU's best practise, providing a safe and enjoyable rugby environment. We have the development of young people through their college journey at the forefront of our rugby programmes, using the sport as a vehicle to shape positive behaviours both on and off the field.

England Rugby Union Colleges Logo

Our partnership with Yorkshire Rugby Academy

We are partnered locally with The Yorkshire Rugby Academy (formerly Yorkshire Carnegie).

The Yorkshire Rugby Academy Manager, Stuart Dixon, understands the importance Bishop Burton ACE Academy can play in the development of an aspiring professional player:

“Having a strong relationship with Bishop Burton College, as one of our education partners, is a key part of the overall aims of the Yorkshire Rugby Academy. Not only do we see the benefits of the college providing a first-class education for the right students, but also introduces young players to a high-performance environment and what the expectations are around important areas such as respect for themselves and each other, striving for consistent levels of excellence and having a positive mindset in all that they do.”

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Level 3 Diploma in Sporting Excellence (DiSE)

Our academy players have the opportunity to complete the DiSE qualification in Rugby Union alongside any Level 3 course at Bishop Burton College. This qualification is reserved for our most talented players; you will need to show that you have the potential to achieve rugby success at an elite level.

  • Highest quality rugby development nationally whilst in full-time education
  • 12-15 hours a week of rugby content
  • Available to players identified by England Rugby’s talented pathway
  • Two-year course for 16–18-year olds, awarded by Pearson
  • DiSE qualification is 64 UCAS points
  • Delivered in Partnership with Yorkshire Rugby Academy (formerly Carnegie) and the RFU

Rugby scholarships

Scholarships are also available to aid and support the right candidates to succeed.

Apply now

To express an interest, find out more or apply, please email with your rugby CV.

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