The ACE scheme – Academy, Colleges and Education - is targeted at talented Year 12 and Year 13 students who have the aspirations and potential to play at the elite end of the game. The ACE scheme gives boys the opportunity to combine rugby training on a daily basis at London Irish with academic study at our education partner Bishop Wand School as of the 2020/21 academic year. This combination allows the students to not only gain an excellent education, but also experience high quality rugby training and match opportunities. Ofsted rating: Excellent

The rugby component of the combined development process will be delivered on site at the London Irish training ground and will be led by ACE Head Coach Richard Pryor supported by Pierre Clark, Simeon Barnes and Delon Armitage.

All students receive an Individual Development Program that is worked out to their individual needs and will also include a competition program which will consist of RFU ACE league games, friendlies, junior club games and representative games where appropriate. In addition to this students will also receive a personalised strength and conditioning programme and will have access to a full time physio.

The scheme is a fantastic opportunity for young talented rugby players to really develop their potential in a professional environment alongside like-minded players whilst continuing their academic education.

Some of the key highlights of the program include:

  • 8 of the 15 senior academy players all graduated from ACE
  • 36 former London Irish ACE players currently playing professional rugby
  • School Ofsted rating Good
  • 12 hours of rugby as part of a bespoke school timetable
  • Excellent links to top BUCS universities

For any specific questions regarding the programme email [email protected]


What is ACE?

ACE is an academic partnership between the club and Bishop Wand School. It is a program run to provide a 6th form education as well as access to the highest level of coaching and playing opportunities at schoolboy level in England. We act as a feeder school to the academy and provide between 40-50% of the academy U18 squad each season. 

There are only 14 ACE colleges/schools in England all linked to a Premiership Academy so competition for places is high. 

It is aimed at anyone who wishes to develop their rugby further and is not purely open to boys within the DPP structure. As we have 12 hours of rugby for the 2 years of 6th form education, we know the players who come on ACE will develop significantly physically, mentally, technically, and tactically. 

I reiterate, this is the highest level of schoolboy rugby in the country and is a fantastic opportunity for young men who wish to become better rugby players while receiving an excellent education. 

It also must be remembered that if your son does not make it from U16 DPP into the U18 academy, ACE is the best place for him to be if he harbours a desire to get back into the academy as all staff work for the academy and we train and play at the home of the 1st team and academy therefore your son will be seen on a daily basis developing as a player. 


How do ACE players move onto post 6th form studies?

Over the last 3 years we have had 51 players graduate from ACE. A breakdown of the avenues they have taken is listed below:

8 received Senior Academy contracts with London Irish

1 has joined the military

2 are studying for an apprenticeship

2 are in full time employment

38 are at university studying a range of courses and many of these boys are at the top sporting BUCS Universities. 


As you can see, we have managed to provide boys with the skills to pursue many different avenues. We are proud to be the biggest single provider to the Senior Academy and 1st team squads with 24% of the whole squad having come through ACE. We also have excellent links to the top universities and many of our boys receive unconditional or favourable offers from these universities off the back of being part of our ACE program. 



The DiSE program (Diploma in Sporting Excellence) is run nationally across a range of sports through National Governing Bodies which in our case are the RFU. Each Premiership Academy is awarded 8 places per year, and these are deployed through the ACE schools/colleges. 

DiSE is a Btec that's sits on top of the student's usual subject choice so all DiSE students must also be studying 3 A-Levels/Btecs. I run the program along with one of the teachers a Bishop Wand school. It is worth 64 UCAS points and is based upon the development of their rugby knowledge/performance as well as preparing them for future careers. 

Unlike other schools, we do not advertise our program as DiSE because I believe this would misleading. Each school/college has a maximum of 8 places therefore most players (we are entitled to select a maximum of 25 players per age group) selected would not be on DiSE. 



Since a number of you do not live close to the Bishop Wand School, we provide the option of hosting with local families. 

This is organised by Richard Pryor and costs £120 a week term time only. This includes a room for the week along with washing facilities and all meals. It works out as £4680 per year. 

If your son is fortunate to be offered a place on ACE, I will ask who needs accommodation and those who indicate they do I will introduce to a host family, and you then arrange a time to meet the host and visit the house.  Often boys stay at their host for 2 years but in the past boys in their 2nd year commute from home when/if they are driving by that stage. 


How does selection work?

We select on what we feel is the development potential of the player. Ultimately, we want to develop players who we will sign for London Irish, and we will hopefully see play in the Premiership in the future. We are also aware that for most boys this is not ging to happen therefore it is vital that all boys are valued, developed, and given as many opportunities as possible.  

As we have 2 years, we know we have the time to really invest in players who are changing positions, who have played relatively little rugby or those who are developing later. We care more about where your sons can get to rather than where they have come from. 

We will run more than 1 trial and selection will take some time so we can see as many players as possible and give players the time to develop over the season. If offered a place on ACE, each player will still need to meet the entry requirements for the school which are 5 grades 4and above GCSE's including English Language or Maths.


Can boys play for their clubs/counties?

In short, the answer is yes however I do request that all boys ask whether they can play before confirming with their club/county. 

We do this to protect the boys from over playing which is a common cause of injury. When you consider the amount of on pitch training we do, and add in gym, the boys are simply unable to play 2 games a week on a regular basis. Their bodies need time to rest and adapt and while we try and support clubs/counties where possible, this is not always the case. 

Ad Space