As the school year draws to a close, next season’s fixtures are beginning to be planned and the standout fixture of the opening weekend of the 2012/3 season is between two of the oldest rugby teams in the world: Rugby School vs Cheltenham College.
Credited with inventing the sport after William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it, Rugby School gave its name to the sport and has been producing players of top quality ever since, including current Scotland international Alex Grove. One of their most famous sons is a man credited with bringing modern half back play to the English game, a man whose name is know to many but to so few is he known, for Adrian Stoop’s name lives on, immortalised by Harlequins name their stadium after him – the Twickenham Stoop.
Cheltenham College are another of the oldest rugby sides, and are credited with laying the foundation for the modern scoring system. Though their original method was that the act of crossing the line granted you a ‘try’ at goal in order to score points, hence now scoring by touching the ball on or over the line is called a ‘try’. Another team who have produced countless internationals, including most recently Scotland’s Simon Danielli, and England and Bath full back Nick Abendanon.
The two sides have met every year since 1896, and in last years fixture Cheltenham ran out winners by a narrow 13-10. Both sides enjoyed decent seasons this year, and with some good L6th talent in each side, they will be looking to improve further this year.
Being the first game of the season, much will depend on the pre-season work that the players have put in, and on the selection of the strongest possible side by the coaching staff.
Part of the ‘Rugby Group’ of public schools, both sides belong to one of the most prestigious groups of public schools in the world, where unfortunately in recent times their collective rugby performances have not been as dominating as they once were. Newer more specialised independent schools have begun to dominate the scene, but perhaps this is the year when the Rugby Group can begin to reignite some of its past glory. In 2011/12, the Eton Group of schools was given a massive boost by the performance of Dulwich College in winning the Daily Mail Cup, the Rugby Group will be hoping for something similar, and perhaps the winner of this opening day encounter can provide it.
Predictions at this stage are difficult, but form over the last few years suggests a Cheltenham College win by a narrow margin.