The opening weekend of the school season is always exciting, perhaps this year more than ever before with some truly brilliant fixtures ahead of us on Saturday.
As ever, we have previewed the weekend and made our predictions for almost every game, but here we give you the chance to have your say!
If you haven’t yet seen out preview, just follow this link: Schools Rugby Opening Weekend Preview
What a rivalry these two have built over the last few years, all stemming really from that 2016 St Joseph’s Festival final. Of course both sides feature entirely different sets of players now but the quality and recent history of this fixture remains. Both are coming off successful seasons once again and we can expect good things again this year. We can also expect to see some great rugby from two sides that always play with good adventure. Cranleigh won the corresponding game at Brighton last year and perhaps that home advantage this year may just give them the edge in a game that really could go either way.
One of the classic season openers and one that each season people around the country take a keen interest in. Indeed from 2011 to 2014 this was one of the most important games of the entire season. It could be again this year. After a quiet couple of seasons Dulwich picked up the Champions Trophy last year and did so playing some really ambitious rugby, it seems likely that they will build on that even more this year. Wellington College meanwhile had a tough season on and off the field last year, yet were still one of the very best around. The brilliant Dan Richards comes in this year after doing some brilliant work with Caterham and with brilliant playing resources, as ever at Wellington, will surely also have an ambitious style of play which could produce a great game on Saturday.
Millfield looked exciting in their first appearance at the President’s Cup at Esher RFC on Friday, with some real pace and ball handling skill across their team. They may not have been the winning machine over the last couple of years that they were for the three or four before, but they have remained a mesmerizing side to watch. Suspicion is that they have a strong group this year and an exciting style, but so too do Canford, who won the corresponding fixture last year. Both will surely have strong seasons and this could well be a really exciting game to kick things off with, it certainly is on paper!
A major local derby is an unusual way for these two to kick off the season but a hugely exciting one for everyone. These two share so much, not least a crest, and have a rivalry that goes back as far as anyone can remember. Oakham have been the more dominant side in recent years, but with former Scotland international Nick De Luca at the helm and having had Jack Hughes in the England U18 side in August, there is a sense of optimism around Uppingham about their rugby at the moment. Any trip to Oakham’s Doncaster Close is tough though, the men in black have won the last nine of these fixtures. Ten would be a stunning achievement, one that Uppingham will be utterly determined to prevent.
This is one of the great early season fixtures, a local derby played at the home of the local pro team, Newcastle Falcons. The summery weather and the artificial surface at Kingston Park ought to add to an expansive style of play from both. RGS have held the upper hand in recent times, beating Durham twice last year and they have not lost this fixture since the start of the 2015/16 season. Never write the former school of British and Irish Lion Geoff Parling off though, this game is usually very close and ought to be again. More than anything though, this is the sort of occasion that every single player and parent will remember forever. The result is largely irrelevant, the experience here is everything.
This is a newish fixture in schools rugby terms, introduced in 2016/17. Rugby have won both fixtures and aiming to make it three in a row on their famous 1st XV pitch, The Close, the home of Rugby Union. Both sides have played some excellent rugby in recent times and should put on a good show on what will hopefully be a sunny Midlands afternoon on Saturday. Rugby School is always a special place and any opening day trip there makes for a great occasion. Both sides have an opportunity to kick off their season in style and have the capability to push on to superb overall seasons.
Another genuinely exciting fixture between two sides that have enjoyed brilliant recent seasons and could be set for similar showings this time around. St Peter’s enjoyed an unbeaten season and another top ten league finish, while Woodhouse had slightly worse win/loss ratio, including two defeats to St Peter’s, but did go on to win the U18 Schools Plate in style at Sixways in March. Both ought to be up there once again this year and after those two wins last year St Peter’s will be keen to go for another this, while Woodhouse Grove will surely be eager to get their own back this season. One way or another it feels certain to be a firecracker of a game to kick the season off with.
Talking of firecracker starts to the season, how about this derby game between the two most recent winners of the U18 Schools Cup. School rugby fixtures do not come much bigger than meetings between these two and it really does make for an outstanding start to the season. Warwick won a thriller between the two last year as both went on to enjoy strong seasons, Warwick winning the U18 Schools Cup in the end. At this stage it is hard to know which way this one might go, home advantage of course plays into Warwick’s hands but it feels fairly open. What does seem certain is that these are two brilliant rugby teams with great coaching behind them that could put on a real opening day classic.
Without doubt one of the games of the season, the England Rugby Travel School Team of the Season, Sedbergh, winners of the Daily Mail Trophy, HSBC Rosslyn Park National School 7s, and Sedbergh 10s against Whitgift, one of the most criminally underrated teams of last year. Whitgift only lost four games last year, but at the top end of schools rugby four can seem a lot. Yet even the minimum amount of digging shows just how good they were, they came in the corresponding fixture to Sedbergh, to Wellington College, Cranleigh, and in the Schools Cup semi final to Warwick. Four of the best in the country and only Cranleigh were anything close to comfortable. Having been to impressive at the President’s Cup, eventually winning it, we can expect another strong Whitgift team this year, while Sedbergh have retained a huge number of players from that magical side last year. The men in brown will have their sights set on a similarly impressive season this time around and few would back against them. This really could be one of the games of the season, and on the first day of the season.