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Ultimate schoolboy bragging rights up for grabs at Twickenham

On Saturday morning at 11.45am Wellington College and Sedbergh will run out in front of a packed Twickenham Stadium as they compete for the ultimate bragging rights on the schoolboy sevens circuit.

Wellington won the Festival tournament at the HSBC Rosslyn Park National School Sevens with Sedbergh winning the Open tournament. For years now though debate has always followed the end of the Rosslyn Park 7’s, centring around which side is the true kings of school sevens, the Festival winner or the Open winner?

For those who are not aware of the difference; the Festival is only open to ‘one term’ rugby schools and schools who do not run a dedicated sevens squad, while the Open tournament (as the name suggests) is open to all.

This year though all that has been changed with an agreement in place ahead of the Rosslyn Park Sevens that the winner of each of its tournaments would play each other at Twickenham during the Marriot London Sevens in a final, glorious, encounter to decide the number one team on the schoolboy circuit.

Sedbergh should admirable adaptability on their way to the Open crown, trying to play expansive and free flowing rugby on the first day when the weather was in their favour and then turning to a more tactical and controlled game as wind, rain, sleet and hail came on finals day, their one score victory in the final demonstrating that adaptability brilliantly.

So good were they that on the opening day of the tournament Sedbergh did not concede a single point, a remarkable feat given the free scoring nature of the game of sevens. Robert Stevenson was the star of the show, finishing as the top try scorer in the tournament and a threat almost every time he touched the ball, look out for Miles Lloyd (who featured heavily for the Independent School Lambs National XV) and Oliver Fields too, both very exciting players.

In the Festival Wellington College were clearly the best team in the competition from a very early stage. In Charlie Wicks and Simon Sexton they had two players whose vision and tactical acumen far outweighed their years, while Buchan Richardson showed his all round rugby skills with some barnstorming performances, performances that have seen him become a key player for the Samurai Bulldogs side this summer.

It was Wellington’s third Festival win in a row, which just goes to show their sevens class, while for Sedbergh it was a first Open since 2008. Do not read into that that Sedbergh do not have an outstanding sevens track record though, they are consistently in the mix at every tournament, and with the emergence of the AASE Colleges in the Open tournament, and of course contending with the likes of Millfield, success is not easy to come by.

Both sides have had England Sevens players giving coaching sessions in the build up to the big game; Welington welcomed back old boys Sam Edgerley and Christian Lewis-Pratt while Sedbergh welcomed England pivot Dan Bibby.

All of the England stars remarked on how impressed they were by the skills of the school players, with Bibby particularly impressed by Sedbergh’s passing skills:

“From what I’ve seen, they are really good and have some great footwork. One of the drills in particular really impressed me. In England 7s training, on this particular passing drill, we aim to get 40 to 50 passes in 30 seconds, and these boys were getting around 40 passes in, which is fantastic.”

Picking a favourite is no easy task, Wellington obviously have class following their three Festival victories in a row and they also reached the final of the Surrey Sevens this year, losing narrowly to Oaklands College.

However Sedbergh too are clearly an excellent outfit, nobody wins the Open tournament without being so and a victory at the North of England sevens earlier in the year proved that it was no fluke.

Looking further afield to the fifteen man game, Wellington probably have the edge, they had an incredibly good season and were one of only two sides (Millfield were the other) to prevent the outstanding Daily Mail Champions, Dulwich College, from winning.

Sedbergh had a less successful fifteen a side season but with illness, injury and weather ravaging their season it is hardly fair to even reflect on it. What it has done though is give them a steely determination to prove themselves on the sevens field.

Some have said that the weather was a leveller in the Open at Rosslyn Park but the fact is that the weather was the same for everyone, and even in the dry Sedbergh were the dominant force so it is a criticism that just does not wash.

What is certain though is that it is all set to be a fantastic occasion and a real coup for schoolboy rugby to be able to stage such a match in front of a packed house at Twickenham.

For the winner, schoolboy glory beckons.

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