Tomorrow sees one of the most exciting games of schoolboy rugby of the season, as Millfield make the trip to Wellington in a game that many feel will decide who the strongest side in the country is.
The likes of Dulwich, Marlborugh and Durham will all have something to say about that you feel, but you can understand the sentiment, these are two great sides of schoolboy rugby, sides that rarely play each other, so to have them facing each other in a season where they have performed so well is an exciting prospect.
Wellington have been quite exceptional this season, losing only to early season pacesetters Marlborough, while they also held the Daily Mail Cup Champions, Dulwich, to a 13-13 draw.
Millfield too have been in great form, the highlight of their season being their St Josephâ€™s festival title where they beat Dulwich in the semi final before defeating John Fisher in the final. They have lost three times this season, though two were to AASE league sides Hartpury and Filton who only play the elite of schoolboy rugby.
The defeat which may give a little confidence in the Wellington camp was Millfieldâ€™s 19-20 loss to Bryanston, who Wellington beat 35-21.
As ever though in schoolboy rugby comparing results against other sides is a tricky business, the only way to truly define who is best is to play each other, which is why tomorrow is such a treat.
In many ways it is Sedbergh who must be thanked for this fixture, they were originally scheduled to play Wellington but an outbreak to mumps in the school, from which we wish everyone a speedy recovery, forced the match to be cancelled thereby freeing up a space in the calendar.
Calling the game is a tough ask, with both sides able to call upon a host of top class players. The battle in the back row between the two captains looks certain to be an area that will catch the eye though.
Both are Scottish schoolboy internationals, Buchan Richardson leading Wellington from 8 with Robbie Tait conducting affairs for Millfield from openside. It is no exaggeration to say that whichever side can dominate in this back row area is likely to be the winning side.
There are battles of this nature across the pitch though; England props Barron and Adeniran-Olule will be battling it out for dominance at the set piece while in the backline there are more exciting match ups with Herron and Wicks facing Sheedy and Van Den Berg.
Frankly though, there is quality across the park on both sides and narrowing it down to a few key battles is a fruitless exercise. The game is in reality likely to come down to three important yet actually quite external areas:
- How quickly Millfield can get in the right frame of mind after a long coach journey.
- Who responds best to what will be a vocal and partisan crowd. Can Wellington deal will the pressure of an expectant crowd; will a hostile audience distract Millfield?
- Who deals best with what are likely to be very difficult conditions with a slippery ball and a sodden pitch.
Of course the pattern and quality of play is what will decide the match, but it is these factors that will decide the quality of play.
It promises to be an intriguing encounter, and one that the elite of schoolboy rugby will all be keeping a very, very close eye on.
15. Haynes, 14. Trowbridge, 13.Â T.McClean, 12. Herron, 11. Ware, 10. Wicks, 9.Â Leith; 1. Adeniran-Olule, 2. Butler, 3. Hayes, 4. Oâ€™Leary, 5. Corner, 6. J.McClean, 7.Â Forshaw, 8. Richardson (Captain).
15. Whiteley, 14. Denham, 13. Delahunty, 12. Van Den Berg, 11. Hopkins, 10. Sheedy, 9. Turner; 1. Barron, 2. Haines, 3. Owlett, 4. Richardson, 5. T.Ellis, 6. W.Radford, 7. Tait (Captain), 8. Davies