The draw for the 2018 Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s has been made, with Cranleigh looking to make it three U18 Cup titles in a row.
The tournament takes place from Monday 19th March to Friday 23rd March, with the Junior Waterfall on Monday 19th, the Colts groups on Tuesday 20th, the Colts finals and U18 Vase groups on Wednesday 21st, and a busy end to the week with the U18 Cup groups, U18 Vase finals, and U14 Groups on Thursday 22nd, and the U18 Cup finals, U14 finals, Girls competition, Girls AASE competition, and the Prep Schools Waterfall all taking place on Friday 23rd.
You can see previews for each of the various competitions via the links below, this preview focuses on the U18 Cup.
Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s Previews
Holders Cranleigh are one of sixty schools in the prestigious U18 Cup draw. As holders they are drawn in Group A, a tricky group that includes Scottish powerhouses Dollar Academy and George Watson’s College, as well as AASE side Brooksby Melton College, and St Columba’s College.
The sixty schools are split into twelve groups, two less than in previous years, which means that this year there is no elimination round. Instead the winners of each pool go straight into three quarter-final pools of four, with the runners-up in three Plate quarter-finals pools of four.
Each group seems to be loaded with big names, take Group B, which includes three schools that each competed right at the top end of the circuit last term, Canford, Clifton College, and Champions Trophy semi finalists, St John’s Leatherhead, who will want to show their quality having won the Vase last year and therefore moving up to the Cup this year. Meanwhile Reading Blue Coat are no pushovers, and Utah Cannibals will add an international flavour to the group.
Group C contains one of the legendary schools of the Rosslyn Park 7s, Wellington College. Perennial winners of the old Festival before the change of format to Cup and Vase.
They will once again be among the favourites this year, but will have the tricky task of an AASE side in their group, Henley College, as well as Whitchurch High School, KES Birmingham, and Birkenhead.
There is more AASE talent in Group D, with Bishop Burton College, as well as another side with plenty of Rosslyn Park past glory, Whitgift. They will be heavily challenged by Denstone College, with Newcastle-Under-Lyme and Welsh side Coleg Llandrillo also mixing things up.
Groups E, F, and G look treacherous. 2014 Festival winners, Bedford, head up Group E, which also contains Scottish legends Merchiston Castle and St Joseph’s College. Also in attendance are Caterham, who were outstanding last year, and Welshmen Coleg y Cymoedd.
Over in Group F things are even harder. Cup legends Sedbergh are probably the pick of the bunch, they are the Daily Mail Trophy champions and their last Rosslyn Park title came in 2013, but there is a triple AASE threat in the form of Beechen Cliff, Truro College, and the mighty Hartpury College, AASE champions and runners-up at Rosslyn Park in 2011. Maidstone Grammar draw a bit of a short straw but could spring a surprise.
Over in Group G there is yet more heavy competition, the reduced number of groups making things even more competitive than ever. Haileybury, one of the strongest sides around last term, are drawn against another side stacked with Saracens academy talent, Harrow, who were finalists in 2016 and finished third in this year’s Daily Mail Trophy. Joining those two giants of this season are Woodhouse Grove, the 2013 runners-up and one of the most consistent sides at Rosslyn Park, and the double Welsh treat of Newport High School and Rydal Penrhos.
Group H looks slightly less challenging, but only slightly, it still contains Sherborne, a side that always go well at Rosslyn Park, and AASE side Ivybridge Community College, plus the Welshmen of Cardiff and Vale College. Coventry College and Samuel Whitbread Academy complete the group.
Last year at every turn Brighton College seemed to be thwarted by Cranleigh, indeed so closely matched were the two that they managed to meet both in their quarter final pool and eventually in the final, with Cranleigh winning both by the narrowest of margins.
This year the south coast men arrive with a huge piece of silverware alongside them, the St Joseph’s Festival, and will fancy a real crack at the title again. They have a tricky old group though, with the excellent Hampton, Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf, St Benedict’s, and Ysgol Gymraed Ystalyfera for company.
Group J is one to really watch too, it features Kirkham Grammar School, one of the favourites last year and a side that are likely to be among them this year too. There is a double AASE threat as well, with Moulton College and Oaklands College, while 2012 winners Coleg Sir Gar are always strong, Dulwich College are also in the squad, the Champions Trophy winners are sure to be a huge threat. A brutal group.
John Fisher, losing finalists in 2014 and 2015 will want to continue their impressive record at Rosslyn Park. They face a really tough task in Group K though, with two AASE sides for company, Exeter College and St Paul’s Catholic College, one of the top Welsh side, Coleg Gwent, and the U18 Schools Cup holders, Warwick. The others in the group will be hoping that Warwick reach the Schools Cup final again this year, and therefore might have half an eye on that.
Finally to Group L, where Rosslyn Park legends Millfield are the headline act. They last won the title in 2014, and who can forget those truly magnificent tussles they had with Wellington College in 2014 and 2015, two of the great School 7s sides of all time going head to head. Joining Millfield are one of the most well known sides in Wales, Llandovery College, and their countrymen Nearth Port Talbot, as well as AASE side Worcester 6th form College. One of the most recognisable names in school rugby completes the group, Barnard Castle.
The U18 Cup is the signature competition at the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s, and with a Group line up as intense and full of quality as these twelve groups, it is easy to see why. With such depth, both the Cup and the Plate on the Friday look as though they are going to be unbelievably intense competitions, and a truly brilliant way to close the tournament.
The reduced number of groups means that some sides move down to the Vase, among them some big names, including the likes of Champions Trophy winners Dulwich College, Oundle, and 2016 Vase winners, Tonbridge.
That the competition remains as stiff as it is even without them, shows just how much depth there is in school rugby at the moment. We are in for quite a week!
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|Brooksby Melton College||Canford||Birkenhead||Bishop Burton College|
|Cranleigh||Clifton College||KES Birmingham||Coleg Llandrillo, Cymru|
|Dollar Academy||Reading Blue Coat School||Henley College||Denstone College|
|George Watson’s College||St John’s Leatherhead||Wellington College||Newcastle-under-Lyme|
|St Columba’s College||Utah Cannibals||Whitchurch High School||Whitgift|
|Group E||Group F||Group G||Group H|
|Bedford||Beechen Cliff||Haileybury||Cardiff & Vale College|
|Caterham||Hartpury College||Harrow||The Coventry College|
|Coleg y Cymoedd||Maidstone Grammar||Newport HS||Ivybridge|
|Merchiston Castle||Sedbergh||Rydal Penrhos||Samuel Whitbread Academy|
|St Joseph’s College||Truro College||Woodhouse Grove School||Sherborne|
|Group I||Group J||Group K||Group L|
|Brighton College||Coleg Sir Gar||Coleg Gwent, Crosskeys College||Llandovery College|
|Hampton||Dulwich College||Exeter College||Millfield|
|St Benedict’s||Kirkham Grammar||John Fisher||Neath Port Talbot|
|Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf||Moulton College||St Paul’s Catholic College||Worcester 6th form College|
|Ysgol Gymraeg Ystalyfera||Oaklands College||Warwick||Barnard Castle|