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Strength of Schoolboy Rugby reflected in England squads

The latest England squad has highlighted the importance of school rugby in the development process of England rugby players, with 18 of the 32 man squad having had their major rugby grounding in the independent school system.

All four of the additions to the squad for the Autumn series attended major English schools, with Tom Youngs from Greshams, James Haskell from Wellington, Ugo Monye from Lord Wandsworth College, and Mako Vunipola from Millfield demonstrating the strength of schoolboy rugby.

The independent schools have long been a source of strength for English rugby, with many of England’s most stellar names throughout history having come through the independent school system.

The likes of Millfield, Sedbergh, Barnard Castle and Wellington can almost field an entire team of their international former players over the years, indeed Millfield have four OM’s in just this one England squad.

An interesting trend though is the dearth of tight five forwards in relation to the huge numbers of backs and back row.

There are a number of theories on this, for it must be something to do with the coaching and environment rather than that those pupils in independent schools are simply not suited to the tight five.

Perhaps the most convincing theory is that due to their excellent resources, independent school tend to have exceptionally well cared for pitches meaning that attractive, ball in hand, rugby can be played even in the wild winter conditions.

This would lend itself to producing players with more of the skills necessary for back row and backs play, whereas the sometimes more sodden and muddy pitches associated with local club rugby will naturally benefit those with the skills needed in the tight five.

The importance of the independent schools to England looks set to continue though, with well over half of both the Under 18 and Under 17 national sides coming from independent schools, with Bryanston and Harrow in particular making their mark with four representatives each.

What will be interesting as the AASE league takes hold and the college’s involved go from strength to strength is whether the public school can maintain their production line.

It would be a shame if they can’t for the variety of style’s of play developed from playing at different schools across the country is a vital, and it should not be forgotten that over half of England’s professional captains have come from the public school system.

For a bit of fun though, here’s an England XV drawn from today’s squad (plus a couple of injured players drafted in, in italics). Not a bad side!

England School’s XV:

1. Mako Vunipola (Millfield) 2.  Tom Youngs (Greshams) 3.  Alex Corbisiero (Hall School Wimbledon) 4. Geoff Parling (Durham School) 5. Tom Croft (Oakham) 6. James Haskell (Wellington) 7. Chris Robshaw (Millfield) 8. Phil Dowson (Sedbergh)

9. Lee Dickson (Barnard Castle) 10. Toby Flood (King’s School, Tynemouth) 11. Charlie Sharples (St Peter’s, Gloucester) 12.  Anthony Allen (Millfield) 13. Jonathan Joseph (Millfield) 14. Ugo Monye (Lord Wandsworth College) 15. Alex Goode (Oakham)

Reps: Tom Johnson (Dean Close), Manu Tuilagi (John Cleveland College), Jordan Turner-Hall (Brighton College), Ben Youngs (Greshams), Owen Farrell (St George’s, Harpenden) Rob Webber (Pocklington), Ben Foden (Bromsgrove)

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