The School 7s season moves into full flight on Sunday with the North of England School 7s, one of the biggest and best tournaments on the calendar.
After poor weather intervened in each of the last two years, the tournament returns on Sunday but that absence in the last two seasons has done nothing to diminish the reputation of this tournament. If the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s is the flagship tournament of the school 7s season, the North of England School 7s and the Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s are the two key tournaments in the buildup to it.
Thirty-five schools will be in attendance, split over 8 groups, three of which have five teams in them, five of which have four. The winners of each group will head to the Bowing Trophy quarter finals, runners up to the Boodle & Dunthorne Salver quarter finals.
Some of the biggest names of the school circuit will be in attendance, not least back to back Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s champions Sedbergh, and the most recent North of England School 7s champions, Kirkham Grammar School. For all this is the biggest challenge ahead of the nationals at the end of the month.
Kirkham Grammar School have won the two most recent editions of this tournament, 2017 and 2015, beating Woodhouse Grove and RGS Newcastle respectively in those finals. In that 2017 run their centre, Connor Doherty, claimed the Player of the Tournament award, this Friday he captains England U20 against Wales, that is the level we are looking at.
As the most recent champions, Kirkham are drawn in Group A, which will take place at Birkenhead Park FC. The tournament is split across three venues, Birkenhead Park FC, St Anselm’s College, and Birkenhead School. Group A, the Bowring Trophy knockouts, and the last two rounds of the Boodle & Dunthorne Salver will all take place at Birkenhead Park FC. St Anselm’s College meanwhile hosts Groups B, C, and D, with Birkenhead School hosting Groups E, F, G, and H.
Joining Kirkham in Group A are the most recent Boodle & Dunthorne Salver winners, Malvern College, who beat King’s Worcester in that 2017 final (you can see a list of all winners from the Trophy & Salver at the foot of this article). Also in the Group are 1997 Trophy champions Durham, Scottish side Loretto, who were runners up in the 2014 Salver, and Bradford Grammar, who have had a fantastic 2019/20 season and won the 2015 Salver.
Woodhouse Grove will aim to go one better than their runners up spot in 2017 and they begin their campaign from Group C. The 2014 Trophy champions are joined by one of the host schools there, St Anselm’s College, who are still searching for their first silverware at this tournament. Also in the four team group are Liverpool College and Hymers College, who reached four finals in five years between 2008 and 2012.
Group B is one to keep an eye on, schools rugby legends Barnard Castle enjoyed a rampant return to form in the fifteen-a-side game this year and will surely be eager to show that form on the 7s field too. Surprisingly they have never won this competition but have reached three finals and won the Salver in 2009. Alongside them in the group are Shrewsbury, Haberdashers’, and the 2002 champions, Manchester Grammar School.
King’s Worcester were Salver runners up most recently in 2017, they have a tricky old pool to start off with this year, with Queen Ethelburga’s, Pocklington, and one of the strongest fifteen-a-side teams of the season, Clifton College. Clifton, like Kirkham, will be competing at the Surrey 7s three days later so keep an eye on both of those teams at Rosslyn Park as they will be among the very best prepared teams in the country in terms of high level competition.
RGS Newcastle have been in stunning form over the last two years, the 2018 St Joseph’s Festival title being the highlight. Their forward play has been the key in many ways but they will be a formidable 7s opponent too, though surprisingly they have never won here, the 2015 final was the closest they have come. They are alongside the other of the two hosts, Birkenhead School who, like co-hosts St Anselm’s, are still seeking a maiden title here. Elsewhere in the group Oswestry and Ellesmere College will provide plenty of competition, Ellesmere actually won the title back in 2011. A real dark horse to keep an eye on though are Wirral Grammar School, who won Birkenhead’s own 7s tournament on Wednesday and are going to be arriving full of form and confidence.
Group F is going to be a fun group as it includes the exciting Isle of Man Select VII, who have played some good stuff already this year. Mount St Mary’s College are always a team to keep an eye on and Rydal Penrhos are a side full of ambition. Wirral side Calday Grange Grammar will relish being so close to home and will be eager to push for a place in the knockouts, AKS Lytham will have similar ambitions.
Group G will have a huge amount of attention on it as it contains the back to back Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s champions, and also won the Colts tournament there in 2018, this is a loaded side who have won here a stunning nine times, most recently back to back titles in 2012 and 2013. 2013 also saw them winning at Rosslyn Park, once again demonstrating the importance of this tournament. Alongside the men in brown are Bishop Heber High School, who played a key role in developing the Curry twins before they went to Oundle, Ashville College, and Welsh visitors St David’s Llandudno.
The final Group is Group H, in which the 2000 Salver winners RGS Worcester reside. Alongside them are Austin Friars, who hosted a competitive tournament in midweek won by a brilliant Kirkham Grammar side, Birkdale, and Old Swinford Hospital, who have seen a real return to form in this 2019/20 season.
The excitement among the participating schools is palpable ahead of Sunday’s tournament. Weather has been such a frustration for two years and even this year has been a constant source of frustration across the country, but having this tournament back is vital. It is one of the jewels in the crown of the school 7s season, indeed of the whole schools rugby season.
Sunday will be a day of huge importance when it comes to understanding form ahead of the Rosslyn Park HSBC 7s, too. It should be a spectacular day of school 7s, and whichever side wins it will have to be an exceptional side.
North of England Schools 7s Draw:
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|Kirkham Grammar||Barnard Castle||Woodhouse Grove||King’s Worcester|
|Durham||Shrewsbury||Hymers College||Queen Ethelburga’s|
|Loretto||Manchester Grammar||Liverpool College||Pocklington|
|Malvern College||Haberdashers’||St Anselm’s College||Clifton College|
|Group E||Group F||Group G||Group H|
|RGS Newcastle||Mount St Mary’s College||Sedbergh||RGS Worcester|
|Birkenhead||AKS Lytham||St David’s, Llandudno||Austin Friars|
|Oswestry||Calday Grange Grammar||Bishop Heber High School||Birkdale|
|Ellesmere College||Isle of Man Select VII||Ashville College||Old Swinford Hospital|
|Wirral Grammar School||Rydal Penrhos|
|Year||Bowring Trophy Champion||Runner Up||Boodle & Dunthorne Salver Winner||Runner Up|
|2019||Cancelled (bad weather)||Cancelled (bad weather)|
|2018||Cancelled (bad weather)||Cancelled (bad weather)|
|2017||Kirkham Grammar||Woodhouse Grove School||Malvern College||Kings Worcester|
|2016||Cancelled (bad weather)||Cancelled (bad weather)|
|2015||Kirkham Grammar||RGS Newcastle||Bradford Grammar School||Hymers College|
|2014||Woodhouse Grove||Denstone College||Sedbergh||Loretto School|
|2013||Sedbergh||Wilmslow||Trent College||Wirral Grammar School|
|2012||Sedbergh||Hymers College||Manchester Grammar School||Kirkham Grammar School|
|2011||Ellesmere College||Bromsgrove School||Ampleforth College||Durham|
|2010||Sedbergh||Hymers College||Bromsgrove School||Lymm High School|
|2009||Kirkham Grammar||Hymers College||Barnard Castle||Trent College|
|2008||Kirkham Grammar||Hymers College||Sedbergh||Trent College|
|2007||Sedbergh||Barnard Castle School||Hymers College||RGS Worcester|
|2006||Cancelled (bad weather)||Cancelled (bad weather)|
|2005||Sedbergh||King’s School Macclesfield||St Ambrose College||Cheadle School|
|2004||Sedbergh||Arnold||QES Hexham||King’s Macclesfield|
|2003||Llandovery||Manchester Grammar||Rydal Penrhos||Calday Grange Grammar School|
|2002||Manchester Grammar||Barnard Castle School||Bromsgrove||Durham|
|2001||Sedbergh||Kirkham||Wirral Grammar School||Rydal Penrhos|
|2000||Sedbergh||Stonyhurst College||RGS Worcester||Bromsgrove|
|1999||Stonyhurst||Sedbergh||Durham||Solihull 6th Form College|
|1998||Cancelled (bad weather)||Cancelled (bad weather)|
|1997||Durham||Trent College||Ermysted’s Grammar School||Sedbergh|
|1996||Stonyhurst College||Sedbergh||Trent College||Dame Allan’s|
|1994||Arnold||Bromsgrove||Durham||Calday Grange Grammar|
|1993||Sedbergh||King Edward VII, Lytham||King’s School Macclesfield||Sandbach|
|1992||Rossall||Trent College||Lymm High School||Rydal Penrhos|
|1991||Trent College||Barnard Castle School|
|1990||Cowley||Bramhall High School|
|1989||Cowley||Wirral Grammar School|