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Daily Mail Cup offers a path to Greatness

This week the Daily Mail Cup returns in earnest, after the system of bye’s and walkovers that is much of the first round, the second round is where the tournament really begins as a competition.

The Cup is school rugby’s only true nationwide test, sure there is the sevens circuit, but in the full format of the game there is nothing to beat the Daily Mail.

It may be a flawed tournament, with midweek games and certain restrictions in the rules meaning that many sides choose not to partake in the tournament, but as the saying goes – people only remember the winners.

The Daily Mail Cup is currently the best tool we have for measuring the top school side in the country, flawed it may be but there can be no doubting that it is a quality competition. The great Colston’s, Oakham and Barnard Castle sides are remembered because of their Daily Mail wins, or in Barnard Castle’s case their continued appearances in finals. The tournament gave these sides a chance to prove themselves.

Every year sees rugby of the highest order being played, and with the prize of a trip to Twickenham for the finalists, it is genuinely a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was fortunate enough to be at the Dulwich College v Old Swinford Hospital final last season, where I witnessed some fine rugby.

I wrote after their triumph that Dulwich College have the opportunity to become one of the great school rugby sides after winning the Daily Mail and the St Jospeh’s Festival last year by going on and retaining it and beating their rivals along the way. Therefore becoming one of the handful of school sides that are forever feared across the country.

They face stiff competition though this year, with Whitgift looking for their third win in four years, while Marlborough, Durham and St Paul’s are all looking close to unplayable so far this season.

Then of course there is the cup pedigree of the likes of Oakham, QEGS Wakefield, Barnard Castle and Colston’s. This is the beauty of the competition, in its early stages it is almost impossible to predict who will progress into the next round, let alone win the whole tournament.

In certain regions, such as the South West, the abundance of quality is just too great to choose from, and it is from that region where perhaps the greatest side never to have won the competition resides: Millfield School.

Feared by many within the game, Millfield have produced more top professional players than any other school. Among their alumni they can boast the man voted the greatest player ever, Gareth Edwards, the current England Captain, Chris Robshaw, and England’s great hope for the future, Jonathan Jospeh.

Despite all of this though they have never quite made the leap from schoolboy rugby greats to Daily Mail Champions. There is no school that wants to win this wore than them, and it is perhaps that desire which makes them so strong on the one hand, but vulnerable on the other – maybe they are trying too hard.

I’ll stick my neck out on the line and say it though, Millfield are my tips for the 2012/13 edition of the Daily Mail Cup. Dulwich College and the others will have something to say about it though, the champions will not give up their crown lightly, that much is certain.

Bring on the next six months of rugby!

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