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School Rugby

Schools Rugby Weekend Preview: The rugby returns! Saturday 7th September

6th September 2019
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The opening weekend of the school season sees a spectacular amount of highly exciting fixtures in what is surely one of the best opening weekend’s in years.

 

Indeed every fixture in this opening week is an exciting one, exciting for all of the players and staff that have put in so much effort, exciting for us, for past pupils, for parents, and for the rest of the school. At this point, everything is an unknown, yes we can look at last year’s form at U18 and Colts level, but in reality this weekend anything could happen in any fixture across the country.

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There are some though that we can assume will just be sensational, not least Sunday’s Sedbergh v Whitgift fixture, which sees two sides that between them hold almost all of the major titles in schools rugby. The other two major title holders, Wellington College and RGS Newcastle, who won the Champions Trophy and St Joseph’s Festival respectively, are also playing in massive games this weekend as Wellington College host Dulwich College in what should be a belter, and RGS Newcastle face their great rivals Durham is what is always one of the special fixtures to kick the season off.

 

Friday night also sees exciting action as Kirkham Grammar School, a fixture at the top of the school game now, host Llandovery College, one of the most legendary names in Welsh school rugby.

 

This season, as in previous seasons, each weekend we will pick out ten key games for the weekend to preview in more depth, before then giving an overview of the weekend as a whole, and of course we will put our necks on the (most likely incorrectly!) each week with our predictions for each game.

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We want to hear from you though and make sure that you get to read what you are interested in, so if you think your fixture ought to be one of the ones that is featured then please do get in touch!

 

Focus On

 

RGS Newcastle v Durham (at Kingston Park)

 

Kicking off at 10.55am at the home of Newcastle Falcons, Kingston Park, this game is always one of the most spectacular events of the season. It should be made even better by the fact that England are in town as they play Italy on the Friday evening in St James Park so the whole city should have a rugby buzz around it. This game should add to that, we have the St Joseph’s Festival champions playing one of the oldest rugby schools in the world in a superb stadium. It does not get much better than this.

 

Prediction: RGS Newcastle

Who will win RGS Newcastle v Durham?

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Rugby v Oakham

 

Rugby School at home on the opening day of the season. It’s really the way the season should begin, the home of the game ushering in the new year. Noises from the home of the game suggest that it will be a place to visit this year too, with plenty of focus going towards their rugby and a promising season seemingly lying ahead. Saturday’s visitors ought to be a good test though, Oakham are almost always a good side with some top quality individuals and they can test and beat anyone. All of which leaves Saturday’s fixture at The Close as one of the most highly anticipated on the weekend’s fixture list.

 

Prediction: Rugby

Who will win Rugby v Oakham?

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Seaford College v Hurstpierpoint College

 

This one fascinates us as these are two of the schools that year by year a slowly beginning to become part of the schools rugby ‘elite’, they have had some superb performances in the last few years and are getting more and more consistent. Both now have huge ambitions for this season and will want to start that right from this opening fixture. The social media chatter has been huge and both a fully justified in their excitement not just about Saturday’s fixture but about the season as a whole.

 

Prediction: Hurstpierpoint College

Who will win Seaford College v Hurstpierpoint College?

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Sedbergh v Whitgift (Sunday)

 

If you were looking for the perfect fixture with which to close the opening weekend of the season, this would surely be it. The Daily Mail Trophy, Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s, and Sedbergh 10s champions against the Schools Cup champions at midday on Sunday, it is about as good as it gets. Both have retained plenty of outstanding players from last year and bring through some top class talent as well. Whitgift are fresh from victory in the high level pre-season Esher President’s Cup last weekend and will be feeling good, but they face a side in Sedbergh that will be feeling equally good after back to back trebles of titles. This is blockbuster schoolboy rubgy without a shadow of a doubt.

 

Prediction: Sedbergh

Who will win Sedbergh v Whitgift?

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St Edward’s Oxford v Abingdon

 

Unusually we kick the season off with one of the big Oxford derbies, St Edward’s v Abingdon. The season long triangular between these two and Radley College is always of great interest and the baton for top dog has been passed around a fair bit over the last few years, predicting where it will land this year is anyone’s guess. This first derby should be fun though, both will have high hopes and Abingdon will certainly be feeling positive after their South America tour. What we do know is that it will be played in a superb setting, England have seen fit to use St Edward’s for training camps on many occasions in the last couple of years.

 

Prediction: Abingdon

Who will win St Edward's Oxford v Abingdon?

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St Paul’s v Epsom College

 

Two sides that always start the season with everyone having a feeling that they will have oodles of potential and that is no different this year. Epsom College were excellent last year, reaching the final of the Champions Trophy and proving hugely strong on the 7s circuit too, while St Paul’s have found real consistency. Epsom put the hammer down in this one last year but St Paul’s responded magnificently, so it will be interesting to see how this one pans out. Rumour is that there will be a strong crowd out there supporting the two sides, and that is exactly how the opening game of the season should feel – big and exciting.

 

Prediction: Epsom College

Who will win St Paul's v Epsom College?

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Stowe v Marlborough College

 

This is one of our ten featured games because we are so curious. At various points in time both of these sides can claim to have been right up there in the top handful of teams in the country. In the last couple of years they have not quite been there but last year there were green shoots from Marlborough as they headed to the Schools Cup semi finals. So these two meeting brings an abundance of anticipation, what level are they both at, how are they playing, who looks good. It should make for fascinating viewing, and played out at one of the most spectacular school rugby settings in the entire country.

 

Prediction: Marlborough College

Who will win Stowe v Marlborough College?

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Warwick v Bromsgrove

 

A West Midlands classic, two of the most successful school rugby outfits in the last five years or so and two side that have made a habit of putting on some absolute classics in that time. In recent years Cup draws have seen them face each other three times a season, and yet such is the quality and intensity of these fixtures that it never seems like to many. In fact give us a season of Warwick v Bromsgrove fixtures and well give you glowing reports of one of the great schools rugby seasons. Both are packed with top players as always, and this will be a massive chance to get off to a flyer.

 

Prediction: Warwick

Who will win Warwick v Bromsgrove?

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Wellington College v Dulwich College

 

Mouth-watering. Historically two of the very best in the business, and they have continued to show it over and over again. These are also the most recent Champions Trophy winners, Wellington College winning last year and Dulwich College the year before. Both teams are pretty committed to an exciting and fast brand of rugby, so before even getting into all of the history and drama of this fixture we already know we are in for a stunning game. An early season track suits them both, and you can guarantee that Wellington College’s bigside will be packed to the rafters and loud. Around 2012 and 2013 these games were something else, probably the two best in the country opening the season in spectacular fashion, and in reality things have not changed a lot since. Both have had their dips, but both remain huge forces and will surely challenge once more this year.

 

Prediction: Wellington College

Who will win Wellington College v Dulwich College?

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Woodhouse Grove v St Peter’s York

 

A really fascinating fixture this one, Woodhouse Grove were absolutely outstanding last season and St Peter’s were not far off that level either. For a good three of four years both sides have been not just among the very best in the region, but among the best in the country. Saturday will be a massive game then, to see if both are up there again, to see who has the edge, and to see how both sides are going to play. Woodhouse Grove had the edge last year but this year it is all up in the air again, making Saturday absolutely fascinating.

 

Prediction: Woodhouse Grove

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

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Saturday Fixtures:

 

There is so much more besides those ten fixtures though, particularly on an opening weekend that seems so unpredictable. Take Berkhamsted v Harrow. Berkhamsted are a rapidly rising force and are at home, but in Harrow they face a side that is always at the top of their game. It speaks not just of a game that should be good, but also of a trend across the country this year, there a lost of schools ready to challenge and to expand that top bracket.

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On the south coast we have another like that as Brighton College, so good for so long and likely to be so again, hosting a St John’s Leatherhead side that have just been getting better and better year on year and like Berkhamsted are really knocking on the door of that elite bracket.

 

All over the country though there are fascinating games and storylines. Can Ampleforth College get back among the elite? They kick off away at a Bradford Grammar side that have had some strong recent seasons.

 

Dean Close are another side that have been rising and rising, and indeed you could say have already smashed into that top bracket. They start their season away at RGS Worcester on Saturday. Some sides, of course, are almost always at the top end of the school game, and one of the most consistent are Millfield. They have been a little quieter than usual in the last couple of seasons, but only by their standards, they still reached the St Joseph’s Festival final and had a superb season. They will look to lay down a big early season marker this year as they travel to Canford.

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Not far from there another consistent challenge, Clifton College, host Monmouth is what should be a really compelling opening game of the season, as should Denstone College’s game at home to King’s Macclesfield. Denstone have been playing brilliant rugby for a number of years now and will surely be keen to make an early mark, but King’s Macclesfield are no easy opponent.

 

It is not just about some of these big names though, take Churcher’s College v The Oratory, that is a massive game for both, so too Emanuel v Wimbledon College and Framlingham College v Gresham’s.

 

A fun one to keep an eye on this weekend too is Eton College v John Fisher, which always proves entertainment and can have a good deal of feistiness. One game that really stands out to us though is Felsted v Norwich. Both had really good years last year but have lost some real star players, expect them to keep going well though. Both have some brilliant players and have a structure and coaching in place that seems to lend itself to punching way above their weight year on year. Keep an eye out too on Judd v Eltham College, two sides on the up and up that are punching high too and should make for a cracking game on Saturday.

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Two other sides building are The Leys and Uppingham, they meet in Cambridge on Saturday and with Simon Thomas and Nick De Luca now coaching in their second year at their respective schools it is not hard to imagine that they will be rising, given the quality of the two coaches. Former Scotland international De Luca would do well to cast an eye back north too, where there is some fantastic rugby this weekend, not least Merchiston Castle v George Heriot’s. Meanwhile back in Cambridge The Perse v New Hall is a game that should attract good interest.

 

Another fixture that really captures our imagination is Campion’s trip to St Benedict’s. Two former Schools Cup winners going head to head on the opening day and two sides that could well claim some scalps this year. Bristol Grammar v Sir Thomas Rich’s could be a real highlight as well, two sides that quietly performed brilliantly last year.

 

Oundle v Bedford is a staple of the opening weekend and a fixture that is always worth watching. Indeed it was the very first game we ever covered officially here at Fifteen Rugby, enticed as we were by the Amphitheatre that is Oundle’s 1st XV pitch. Both sides probably were not at there best last year but it would be no surprise to see them back among the contenders this year.

 

A similarly exciting fixture is Sherborne v Bishop Wordsworth’s two sides that have hit some massive highs in the last three or four years and will want to seem them coming back again. They should play some really exciting rugby too in what is a great setting for schools rugby.

 

Other games that particularly stand out are KCS Wimbledon v RGS Guildford and Wilmslow High School v St Ambrose College. All four at times have been brilliant in the last few years and at times have not hit those heights, seeing where they all lie will be fascinating.

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Two absolute giants go head to head on Saturday in Kent as Tonbirdge welcome Cranleigh. Cranleigh’s successes in the last three or four years have been well documented, particularly on the 7s field, but Tonbridge have had a quiet couple of years so seeing where they are will be enlightening. Expect a strong Cranleigh outfit though, with two England internationals. Meanwhile another cracking fixture is Cheltenham College’s trip to Malvern College, one that should see two exciting teams really going for it.

 

St Joseph’s College v Bishop’s Stortford College will be interesting too. At their best St Joseph’s really are among the very best but often this first half of term can be a bit of a warm up act for them ahead of their Festival just before half term. How they go on Saturday will likely tell us a lot about what they will be doing this time around.

 

Before all of that though comes the first fixture of this opening weekend on Friday night as Kirkham Grammar School host Llandovery College one of the two or three most consistent teams in England over the last three years hosting arguably the biggest name in Welsh Schools rugby. It is a mouth-watering way to start the season.

 

As we say every season and every week, please do get in touch with your stories, photos, videos, reports, and opinions from the weekend’s school rugby. It all makes a massive difference and allows us to feature your school and your team! You can get in touch via any of the below methods:

 

Twitter: @FifteenRugbyXV

Facebook: www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby

Instagram: @fifteenrugbyxv

Email: writers@fifteenrugby.com

 

Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures (predictions in bold):

 

Focus On Fixtures:

 

RGS Newcastle v Durham

Rugby v Oakham

Seaford College v Hurstpierpoint College

Sedbergh v Whitgift (Sunday)

St Edward’s, Oxford v Abingdon

St Paul’s v Epsom College

Stowe v Marlborough College

Warwick v Bromsgrove

Wellington College v Dulwich College

Woodhouse Grove v St Peter’s, York

 

Saturday:

 

Ashford v Kent College

Berkhamsted v Harrow

Bishop Vesey’s GS v Trent College

Bloxham v Magdalen College

Bradford GS v Ampleforth College

Brighton College v St John’s Leatherhead

Bristol GS v Sir Thomas Rich’s

Canford v Millfield

Caterham v Sevenoaks

Cheadle Hulme v Altrincham GS

Christ’s Hospital v Robert Clack

Churcher’s College v The Oratory

City of London Freemen’s v Chislehurst & Sidcup GS

Clayesmore v Monkton Combe

Clifton College v Monmouth

Coopers’ Coborn v RGS Colchester

Dame Allan’s v Barnard Castle

Dartford GS v Sir Joseph Williamson’s

Denstone College v King’s Macclesfield

Dollar Academy v George Watson’s

Dundee HS v Bell Baxter HS

Edinburgh Academy v Stewart’s Melville

Emanuel v Wimbledon College

Eton College v John Fisher

Felsted v Norwich

Framlingham College v Gresham’s

Glasgow HS v Hutchesons’ GS

Glyn v Claremont

Grammar School at Leeds v Manchester GS

Haileybury v Royal Hospital School

Judd v Eltham College

KCS Wimbledon v RGS Guildford

Kelvinside Academy v Glasgow Academy

KES Bath v Downside

KES Southampton v Halliford

King’s Bruton v Dauntsey’s

King’s Canterbury v Duke of York’s RMS

King’s College Taunton v Taunton v Downside (Triangular)

King’s Grantham v Worksop College

King Henry VIII, Coventry v Princethorpe College

The Leys v Uppingham

Loretto v Robert Gordon’s College

Loughborough GS v Northampton SfB

Malvern College v Cheltenham College

Merchiston Castle v George Heriot’s

Mill Hill v QES Barnet

Milton Abbey v Warminster

Nottingham HS v Stamford

Oundle v Bedford

Oswestry v Liverpool College

Pate’s GS v The Crypt

The Perse v New Hall

Portsmouth GS v Eastbourne College

Prior Park College v Colston’s v QEH (Triangular)

Ratcliffe College v KES Birmingham

RGS High Wycombe v Reading Blue Coat

Reed’s v Gordon’s

Reigate GS v Tiffin

RGS Worcester v Dean Close

Rydal Penrhos v Newcastle-Under-Lyme

Sherborne v Bishop Wordsworth’s

Shiplake College v Windsor Boys’

Skinners’ v Langley Park

Solihull v King’s Worcester

St Albans v Bishop’s Stortford HS

St Benedict’s v Campion

St Dunstan’s v Colfe’s

St Joseph’s College v Bishop’s Stortford College

St Olave’s GS v Wallington CGS

Stockport GS v Sandbach

Sutton Valence v St Lawrence College

Tonbridge v Cranleigh

UCS v St George’s, Harpenden

Watford GS v Richard Hale

Wellington v Exeter

Wellingborough v Leicester GS

Wilmslow HS v St Ambrose College

Woodbridge v Wisbech GS

Yarm v Hymers College

 

Friday:

 

Kirkham GS v Llandovery College