As we head towards the Rugby World Cup final tomorrow at 9am, England v South Africa incase somehow you had missed it, we take a look at the England team from a more Fifteen Rugby perspective.
In the last week or so a lot of column inches in the national press have been devoted to the background and schooling of the England team, Kyle Sinckler in particular.
Two particularly good ones have stood out, Hampton’s Robin Hardman wrote a fantastic article in the Spectator Life, opposing Jeremy Corbyn’s policy to abolish independent schools but arguing the point through the lens of the England squad and the opportunities they have been given. Paul Hayward also wrote a piece for the Daily Telegraph discussing the greater diversity of background in this England squad – though having spent the last couple of years researching, it is actually fair to say that things really changed a fair while ago.
It is a real peculiarity of English rugby, this obsession with where England players went to school – and not in the good sense of being due to school rivalries and pride in old boys making it as we try to promote and encourage here – but in an angry and judgmental way. Every single international age grade article we produce about England is guaranteed to return dozens of responses, at least, asking ‘how many of the went to private school’, often, if discussion is engaged, without any knowledge of which schools on the list are in fact independent.
There is a 10,000 word piece that has been drafted and deleted and redrafted and deleted again for this site on this entire subject, but on the last redraft a more pertinent point came through in the edit, given that the World Cup final is mere hours away.
That point? Every player in the England squad was at school through to 18. Almost all of those players are also undertaking, or have undertaken, higher education at the encouragement of their clubs or have started business or gained real world work experience.
Who cares where they went to school, let’s celebrate that they went to school. One of the great achievements of rugby in this country is its promotion and commitment to real world education. There are loads of independently educated players, there are loads that had scholarships and bursaries, there are loads that attended state schools, and there are loads that took advantage of the AASE programme. It’s awesome.
Why is it so awesome? Because if the ones at the top did it, that means that all the ones at the bottom are doing it too and that is where it’s important because rugby is not a career to retire on. Compare it to the obvious example, football. Sure, at the top end it is a career to retire on but what about at the bottom end, all those late teens that never make it but sacrificed an education. We should be shouting from the rooftops at rugby’s ability through scholarships and programmes like the AASE to give people the best of both worlds – a wonderful sporting opportunity as well as a wonderful educational opportunity.
That 10,000 word piece (or several smaller ones, nobody has time to read a dissertation!) can address all the intricacies of this most English of rugby debates, for now though let’s celebrate that great success of English rugby.
Let’s also celebrate where all these players went to school, below is the full England squad alongside the senior/secondary schools they went to (if any are wrong do please let us know), each and every school should be celebrated and deserves their moment in the sun for having an old boy who has climbed rugby’s K2*.
Only a fortnight ago the joy and pride at St Joseph’s College in Lewis Ludlam’s achievements was emotional even as an outsider. That same story is repeated 31 times around the country, more for those that attended more than one school. Every one of these players is an inspiration to every rugby watching person in the country, but to those at the schools they once attended that inspiration is so real, it humanizes these heroes, makes it seems as though what they have achieved is within the grasp of any school pupil if they can just commit in the same way.
School rugby is a sensational environment, and when England run out tomorrow morning each and every school that those players represent should rightly feel as proud as punch. We certainly do on their behalf.
Mako Vunipola (Millfield & Castle School)
Joe Marler (Heathfield Community College)
Ellis Genge (Hartpury College & John Cabot Academy)
Jamie George (Haileybury)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Truro College & Mount’s Bay)
Jack Singleton (Oaklands College & St George’s, Harpenden)
Kyle Sinckler (Epsom College & Graveney School)
Dan Cole (Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth I College)
Maro Itoje (Harrow & St George’s, Harpenden)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton School for Boys)
George Kruis (St John’s Leatherhead)
Joe Launchbury (Christ’s Hospital)
Tom Curry (Oundle & Bishop Heber)
Sam Underhill (Sir Thomas Rich’s)
Billy Vunipola (Harrow & Castle School)
Mark Wilson (Kirkbie Kendal)
Lewis Ludlam (St Joseph’s College)
Ben Youngs (Gresham’s)
Willi Heinz (Burnside High School)
Ben Spencer (Ivybridge Community College & Bramhall High School)
George Ford (St George’s, Harpenden & Rishworth)
Owen Farrell (St George’s, Harpenden & St John Fisher)
Piers Francis (Kent College)
Manu Tuilagi (John Cleveland College)
Henry Slade (Plymouth College)
Jonathan Joseph (Millfield & Park House School)
Jonny May (Hartpury College & Ridgeway School)
Anthony Watson (St George’s College, Weybridge)
Elliot Daly (Whitgift)
Ruaridh McConnochie (Cranbrook)
Jack Nowell (Truro College & Mounts Bay Academy)
Joe Cokanasiga (Bushey Academy)
*As a Jim Telfer devotee, Everest can only ever mean one thing in rugby terms and a fair few of these will be going for it in 18 months.