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School Rugby

Schools Rugby Weekend Preview: Saturday 9th September 2017

7th September 2017
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Finally the official start of the 2017/18 Schools Rugby season is upon us, and what an opening weekend it looks like being.

 

Some of the top school sides of the last few years are pitted together on this opening weekend, including Brighton College v Cranleigh, two sides who just could not stop meeting in finals last year, and the two most recent Schools Cup winners, Bromsgrove and Warwick.

 

Those fixtures, any the many other brilliant fixtures, suggest an exciting weekend of rugby. Of course this being the start of a new season, knowing where each team sits relative to one another is a bit of an unknown, but that should serve only to make this even more exciting. Though it does make our predictions in this first preview of the season somewhat challenging and random, so do please forgive any glaring inaccuracies!

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Focus On

 

As always, we begin our preview with our ten ‘Focus On’ fixtures, and what a selection we had to choose from this weekend. The ten selected look absolutely mouth-watering.

 

Berkhamsted v Abingdon

 

These two sides both enjoyed good seasons last year and seem to be investing in and developing their rugby brilliantly. It could be a season of real success for either side if the continue that trajectory, so Saturday’s result should make for very interesting reading as we try to assess where these two sides sit.

Prediction: Abingdon

Who will win Berkhamsted v Abingdon?

  • Abingdon (50%, 108 Votes)
  • Berkhamsted (50%, 107 Votes)

Total Voters: 215

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Brighton College v Cranleigh

 

This is surely the game of the weekend. Cranleigh are the reigning St Joseph’s Festival and Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s champions, a stunning achievement. What makes this so interesting though is that the side they so narrowly overcame in both those finals was Brighton College. Both sides have lost notable talent, not least Brighton who lose Marcus Smith, but both bring in top players from their U16 groups of last year, with Brighton’s a particularly strong bunch. It should be absolutely fascinating to watch.

Prediction: Brighton College

Who will win Brighton College v Cranleigh?

  • Brighton College (64%, 184 Votes)
  • Cranleigh (36%, 103 Votes)

Total Voters: 287

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Bromsgrove v Warwick

 

The 2015 and 2016 Schools Cups champions host the 2017 champions, making this game a brilliant prospect. Bromsgrove enjoyed a strong pre-season win over KES Stratford, while Warwick retain plenty of players from last year’s Cup winning side, though lose the likes of Nick David and Nick Rigby. Regardless of recent achievements this is always a great fixture, so expect more of the same on Saturday.

Prediction: Warwick

Who will win Bromsgrove v Warwick?

  • Warwick (62%, 166 Votes)
  • Bromsgrove (38%, 101 Votes)

Total Voters: 267

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Durham v RGS Newcastle

 

These two north-eastern rivals meet at Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park once again for their annual opening weekend clash. It is always a special occasion and on the artificial surface at Kingston Park it should be a fast paced and exciting game of rugby too. RGS have had some good practice in with a hard fought win over George Watson’s College last week, but Durham will have been preparing well too. This should be a superb occasion.

Prediction: RGS Newcastle

Who will win Durham v RGS Newcastle?

  • RGS Newcastle (51%, 95 Votes)
  • Durham (49%, 90 Votes)

Total Voters: 185

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Eton College v RGS High Wycombe

 

This fixture fascinates us. RGS High Wycombe were well beaten by Wellington College last weekend but this game should serve as a good barometer of where they were. RGS are almost always a good side and tough to beat, so Eton, especially recently. Saturday’s result ought to give us a good indication as to whether RGS were off the pace v Wellington or if last year’s Daily Mail Trophy champions are a cut above the rest.

Prediction: Eton College

Who will win Eton College v RGS High Wycombe?

  • RGS High Wycombe (51%, 110 Votes)
  • Eton College (49%, 106 Votes)

Total Voters: 216

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Oundle v Bedford

 

These two have enjoyed a good rivalry in recent years. Oundle were not quite the force of the previous two years last year, but then who would be after losing the Curry twins – we have all seen how quickly they took to professional rugby. Expect Oundle to be stronger again this year. Bedford have been flying recently, winning the 2015 Champions Trophy and reaching last year’s final. They lose the two Frasers, Dingwall and Strachan, this year, but still have plenty of strength and will hope to challenge for silverware again.

Prediction: Bedford

Who will win Oundle v Bedford?

  • Bedford (81%, 150 Votes)
  • Oundle (19%, 36 Votes)

Total Voters: 186

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Sedbergh v Whitgift

 

This classic fixture between two of school rugby’s greatest teams is always worth a watch. Last year Sedbergh made the trip down to London and won 14-11, this year it is Whitgift’s turn to make the long trek. Both sides enjoyed strong pre-season showing last weekend, Whitgift winning the prestigious Esher RFC President’s Cup and Sedbergh winning a round robin with Stewart’s Melville and Gosforth Academy (the Newcastle Falcons’ AASE side). All of that suggests that Saturday should be a fantastic game of rugby, as always.

Prediction: Sedbergh

Who will win Sedbergh v Whitgift?

  • Sedbergh (79%, 239 Votes)
  • Whitgift (21%, 63 Votes)

Total Voters: 302

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Stowe v Marlborough College

 

An intriguing fixture. Stowe were not quite at their rampaging best last season, while it has been a bit of an up and down few years for Marlborough College. Marlborough are now under the tutelage of Terry Gilmour, the man who led Bishop Wordsworth’s to last year’s Schools Cup final, so expect an exciting style of play. Stowe will be determined to put together the sort of strong season for which they are renowned.

Prediction: Stowe

Who will win Stowe v Marlborough College?

  • Stowe (61%, 107 Votes)
  • Marlborough (39%, 67 Votes)

Total Voters: 174

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Wellington College v Dulwich College

 

This traditional season opener is always a game that is worth keeping an eye on. Not quite the huge opener it was around 2012 and 2013 when Wellington and Dulwich were the two dominant sides in the country, but it is still a huge game, and Wellington are still arguably the dominant force in schools rugby and triple Daily Mail Trophy champions, while Dulwich still remain one of the toughest to beat. Wellington will be favourites after that thumping win over RGS last weekend, but this game is never, ever, simple.

Prediction: Wellington College

Who will win Wellington College v Dulwich College?

  • Wellington (82%, 210 Votes)
  • Dulwich (18%, 46 Votes)

Total Voters: 256

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Woodhouse Grove v St Peter’s, York

 

10th in the Daily Mail Trophy last year versus 4th, this is a massive game between two real forces, not just on their own circuits but against any side. For the last few years they have both bee enjoying high placed finishes, and both will be eying the same again this year. An early season loss for either will make that aim all the harder, so expect a very hard-fought game of rugby.

Prediction: St Peter’s, York

Who will win Woodhouse Grove v St Peter's, York?

  • Woodhouse Grove (65%, 93 Votes)
  • St Peter's (35%, 51 Votes)

Total Voters: 144

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Around the Grounds

 

Those ten ‘Focus On’ fixtures are far from the only big games of the opening weekend, indeed at this stage of the season every game is a massive game, and knowing who the big challengers on the circuit are is pure guesswork at this stage.

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Among those other fascinating games is Ampleforth College v Grammar School at Leeds. Season after season we wonder aloud whether this might be the year that Ampleforth return as a big force. With a game against a good side in GSAL, this should give us an early indication on that question this year.

 

Bradford Grammar v Hymers College ought also to be a big game and an interesting one for the season going forward, both have enjoyed a good season over the last two or three and will be looking to add another.

 

Moving south Bristol Grammar v Sir Thomas Rich’s and Canford v Millfield are two huge games that could easily have featured in our Focus On section. Millfield will want to return right to the top of the school tree as soon as possible, while Bristol, Tommies, and Canford are all capable of being a real thorn for any side that they face.

 

In the south east Caterham v KCS Wimbledon should be a cracking game of rugby. Caterham’s rugby is going from strength to strength, while KCS have been strong for a few year now. Clifton College v Monmouth is another standout fixtures between two of the strongest sides in the country over the last few years, Clifton in particular enjoyed a brilliant campaign last time out.

 

Haileybury also enjoyed a good campaign, their game at home to St Edward’s Oxford on Saturday should be a cracker, as should the local derby between Ipswich and St Joseph’s College, while Cheltenham College’s trip to Malvern College should be an interesting one.

 

There is also the first Schools Cup action of the season on Saturday as Mill Hill host QES Barnet in the first round of the U18 NatWest Vase, the winner will progress to the second round, with the loser moving to the opening round of the Bowl.

 

Oakham host Denstone College, and that is a game that should very keenly contested, and could set up either side for a strong season. The Perse v New Hall will also be a strong game, with both sides going from strength to strength at the moment.

 

One of the biggest games of the weekend sees King’s Macclesfield make the trip down to Rugby, for what should be a cracking game. Rugby were unbeaten last year, so seeing where they go this year will be fascinating.

 

Keep an eye out also for the Seaford College v Hurstpierpoint College derby and Schools Cup finalists, Bishop Wordsworth’s, trip to Sherborne.

 

St Paul’s v Epsom College has the potential to be one of the games of the weekend, Epsom are always strong while St Paul’s have enjoyed a couple of cracking years. Like Epsom, Tonbridge are always among the top sides around, they kick off their campaign at home to Eastbourne College.

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Friday

 

There are a few fantastic looking Friday night games. Arguably the biggest is Kirkham Grammar v Llandovery College. Kirkham have been one of the top two or three sides in the country for a few years now, while Llandovery are always one of the best in Wales, so this should be a real top end battle.

 

Darlington Mowden Park will play host to Barnard Castle v Yarm on Friday evening, while over in the South West St Peter’s Gloucester will host AASE side Henley College.

 

 

Overall the weekend looks like being a real thriller, and looks as good as any opening weekend of the last few years. Of course until that whistle blows, everything is just speculation, and the beauty of schools rugby is that any of the sides playing on Saturday could emerge to be one of the strongest sides in the country this year, and any of the assumed heavyweights could have uncharacteristically below par seasons.

 

All will be revealed come Saturday evening, until then, let’s enjoy the speculation and the rugby!

 

As always, if you have any videos, photos, or reports from the weekend’s rugby, please feel free to send them in via Twitter (@FifteenRugbyXV), Facebook (www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby), Instagram (@fifteenrugbyxv), or through email (writers@fifteenrugby.com).

 

Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures – Saturday 9th September (predictions in bold):

 

Focus On:

 

Berkhamsted v Abingdon

Brighton College v Cranleigh

Bromsgrove v Warwick

Durham v RGS Newcastle (Kingston Park)

Eton College v RGS High Wycombe

Oundle v Bedford

Sedbergh v Whitgift

Stowe v Marlborough College

Wellington College v Dulwich College

Woodhouse Grove v St Peter’s, York

 

Saturday

 

Adams GS v Hereford Cathedral

Ampleforth College v Grammar School at Leeds

Ashville College v Pocklington

Aylesbury GS v Campion

Bishop’s Stortford HS v St Albans

Bishop Vesey’s GS v Trent College

Bloxham v Magdalen College

Bradford GS v Hymers College

Brentwood v Bancroft’s

Bristol GS v Sir Thomas Rich’s

Calday Grange GS v Manchester GS

Canford v Millfield

Caterham v KCS Wimbledon

Cheadle Hulme v Altrincham GS

Christ’s Hospital v Emanuel

Churcher’s College v Worth

City of London Freemen’s v Chislehurst & Sidcup GS

Clifton College v Monmouth

Cokethorpe v Merchant Taylors’

Crossley Heath v Krikham GS (2nd XV)

Culford v King’s Ely

Dean Close v RGS Worcester

Edinburgh Academy v Dollar Academy

Ellesmere College v Old Swinford Hospital

Fettes College v Robert Gordon’s College

Framlingham College v Gresham’s

George Heriot’s v Glasgow Academy

George Watson’s v Strathallan

Glyn v London Oratory

Gordon’s v Latymer Upper

Haberdashers v St Columba’s College

Haileybury v St Edward’s, Oxford

Harrow v Norwich

Hutcheson’s v Kelvinside Academy

Ipswich v St Joseph’s College

Judd v Eltham College

KES Bath v Kingswood

KES Southampton v Halliford

KES Stratford v Nottingham HS

King’s Canterbury v Felsted

King’s College, Taunton v Taunton School

King Henry VIII, Coventry v Princethorpe College

Loretto v Bell Baxter

Loughborough v Northampton SfB

Malvern College v Cheltenham College

Mill Hill v QES Barnet (NatWest Vase)

Newcastle-Under-Lyme v Rydal Penrhos

Oakham v Denstone College

Perse v New Hall

Portsmouth GS v RGS Guildford

Radley College v Pangbourne College

Reading Blue Coat v Lord Wandsworth College

Reigate GS v Tiffin

RGS Colchester v Coopers’ Coborn

Richard Hale v Watford GS

Rugby v King’s Macclesfield

Seaford College v Hurstpierpoint College

Sevenoaks v Cranbrook

Sherborne v Bishop Wordsworth’s

Shiplake College v Windsor Boys

Skinners’ v Langley Park

Solihull v King’s Worcester

Stamford v Leicester GS

Stewart’s Melville v Merchiston Castle

St Dunstan’s v Colfe’s

St George’s, Harpenden v UCS

St Olave’s GS v Wallington CGS

St Paul’s v Epsom College

Stockport GS v Sandbach

Tonbridge v Eastbourne College

Uppingham v Royal Hospital School

Wellingborough v Lawrence Sherriff

Wellington School v Exeter School

Wells Cathedral v Wycliffe College

Wilmslow HS v St Ambrose College

Wimbledon College v St John’s Leatherhead

Worksop College v King’s Grantham

Wrekin College v KES Birmingham

 

Friday

 

Barnard Castle v Yarm (at Darlington Mowden Park)

Kirkham GS v Llandovery College (Oswestry)

St Peter’s, Gloucester v Henley College