A PROFESSIONAL rugby league club could be launched in Worcestershire within the next two years as part of grand plans to grow the sport in the region.

Stuart Hood, director of the Mercian Development Academy, wants to make Worcester and Malvern the “central hub” for rugby league in the West Midlands and has forged a partnership with Super League giants Castleford Tigers to help achieve his dream.

A new fully-accredited category three rugby league academy will accept students between the ages of 16 and 18 from September and provide a pathway to possibly play for Castleford in the future.

Hood also hopes to turn Black Swans, a junior club based at Dyson Perrins Academy, into a professional men’s outfit by 2021.

“It’s about getting rugby league to grow in the Midlands,” he said.

“I am looking to set up a central hub for this whole area so that includes Gloucester, Oxford, Hereford and Warwickshire but the core will be the academy based in Malvern.”

Hood is also a rugby league qualified coach, the commercial manager for Malta Rugby League and will be rolling out England Talent Pathway for the RFL in the region to schools and clubs.

The Worcestershire-based 57-year-old believes there is a thirst for the sport in the area and is aiming to nurture rugby talent.

“Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester per head have got more rugby players than anywhere else in the country,” Hood said.

“They are all union but we were all union before we turned to league so the potential is there especially if we are introducing it into the schools as well. We are looking to provide teachers with an England Talent Pathway coaching system and get them to be able to produce teams.”

Hood said he had worked for 18 months on setting up the academy and been in talks with Castleford Tigers Trust, the charitable arm of the club, since the turn of the year, putting in “blood, sweat and tears” to secure a partnership.

“In football you know that if you are good enough you can go all the way through to the professional level,” Hood said.

“You’ve got lots of professional clubs within the Midlands region but if you look at rugby league there’s only one and that’s Coventry Bears who are in the equivalent of the third division.

“We have got a connection with Castleford and a pathway for players coming through so they know they can go to a Super League club.”

Hood is founder, president and head coach at Black Swans who have mixed youth teams from under sevens to under 15s.

The club are preparing to run coaching sessions at Worcester Warriors’ first-team training pitch opposite the Sixways Stadium this summer and Hood is looking to create a men’s side.

“Next year we will be launching an open-age team so that will be 18 and above,” he added.

“And in two years’ time we will be looking to turn Black Swans into a professional club.

"Worcester and Malvern is where the growth area will be in rugby league.”