The end of the Schools season, but what an end.

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Coach Logic

The end of the school rugby season is such a frantic period that there has been little time to set aside for another Fifteen Uncut blog. However now, a week into the Easter holidays for most, I thought it was high time to get one done.

Where else can I begin but to talk about two schools with outstanding rugby tradition adding to that further at the climax of this brilliant rugby season?

I am speaking of course of Dulwich Colllege and Millfield School.

Dulwich College won their third Schools Cup in a row, making them the most successful side in the tournament since the great Colston’s side that won six in a row.

I could get into debating how Colston’s and Dulwich’s achievements compare but there is little point, it is comparing apples and oranges, such is the way the rules and the competition, as well as school rugby itself, has developed. I do not believe that there will be any rule changes off the back of Dulwich’s success though, which says something.

It is a quite brilliant achievement from these three years worth of excellent players, and for Dulwich’s outstanding coaching trio. There was been much comment, on Twitter particularly, that the achievement is somehow diluted by the absence of several top rugby schools from the competition, or that they must play those other schools and win to somehow ‘prove their worthiness’.

Nonsense. For those who are unhappy at losing out on the glory and prestige to a side they believe they can beat; there is a solution, enter the competition. I know there are many reasons why they do not and a book could be written on the subject but this is just a simple blog so simplicity and basics will have to suffice.

There is certainly no onus on Dulwich to prove themselves, they are history makers, triple champions and in style. They have played 27 games of Schools Cup rugby and have never lost a single one. They wanted the prestige of winning this famous trophy so they entered and have won it every year since; they truly are Schools Cup legends, school rugby legends.

So are Millfield, although that was decided many decades ago when a young Gareth Edwards was strutting his stuff down in Somerset. They have carried that tradition on magnificently down the years, and perhaps never quite so spectacularly as in the closing stages of this season.

They won every sevens competition that they entered, including the spectacular end of season double – the Surrey 7s and the Rosslyn Park National Schools 7s Open, before capping it all off by lifting the Sedbergh 10s trophy last Monday.

Sevens is often spoken about as a bit of a laugh and a chance to chuck the ball around at the end of the season. This Millfield side really rubbished that theory, demonstrating that 7s success is built on having a high work-rate and intensity in defence – they hounded the opposition into mistakes – and having the patience and the skill to push and pull the opposition all over the pitch in attack, waiting for the opportunity, which again requires a high work-rate.

Their ‘secret’ weapon though was their kick offs, weren’t they a thing of beauty? They must have re-gathered the ball from their own kick offs at least two thirds of the time.

Their 7s, and 10s, season was really the stuff of greatness and it was just a pleasure to be able to witness it, some of the skill and performance levels were beyond what one can reasonably expect on a school pitch. It was an equal pleasure to be able to witness that incredible NatWest Cup final performance from Dulwich College, they found a level of performance and superiority that was simply unpredictable.

Following all of that though, that was it for the ‘official’ school season, though of course we still have the FIRA/AER U18 European Championships, the U18 England Clubs & Schools fixtures, the Wellington Festival, and of course a repeat of the Rosslyn Park final between Millfield and John Fisher at Twickenham on May 10th.

Right now the ISRFC Lambs are flying the flag for English Schoolboy Rugby, they are currently touring Zimbabwe and having won their first match 76-0 you would have to say that they are flying it rather well. From a personal point of view, they are a fantastic side to follow.

It has not just been the school game that has got everyone excited though, it has been great to see the U20s sides on our TV screens this term, particularly with so many of last year’s school stars in each of the home nations’ sides, they will all be in action again at the JWC in June.

It is also great that there seems to be a solution of sorts for European Rugby, I just hope that the magic of the Heineken Cup remains in next year’s tournaments. This weekend we saw four brilliant quarter finals, with eight really excellent teams. Had each game gone the other way we would still be talking about just how strong the semi final line-up looks.

The great shame for me was in the Toulon v Leinster game. It was billed as ‘Jonny v BOD’, with the loser bowing out of European Rugby for good. Unfortunately that never really materialised, Wilkinson was injured early while Leinster were just totally outplayed by an impressively powerful and intense Toulon.

The big talking point of the weekend turned out to be Jared Payne’s red card for Ulster against Saracens, for taking Alex Goode out in the air. It certainly sparked some strong opinions on either side of the fence throughout the weekend.

From my point of view a red card was very harsh. For me it was just poor awareness from Payne, not for a second do I believe he was trying to take Goode out, he should have known Goode was coming and did not and therefore got himself in a dangerous position. By the time he realised, Goode was already colliding with him.

That poor awareness was dangerous, no doubt, and warrants a penalty and in the circumstances, a yellow card. However I firmly believe that the referee was influenced by the extent of Goode’s injury, thank goodness the former Oakham School man seems to be ok by the way, and that made him scale to a red. While that is understandable, it is the job of the referee to be dispassionate about such things.

I know that there are plenty who disagree though, I have spoken to many about it and the view is that dangerous is dangerous, therefore tough luck; dangerous means red. Maybe. As I say, it is a sensitive issue and one that can be debated for a very long time – even the referee took a good while to reach a decision.

On the subject of dangerous, when will the lawmakers stop players jumping for a high ball from leading with one leg pointing straight out towards the onrushing defence, studs first? To my mind, that is pretty dangerous too.

It would be great to hear what you think about everything I have spoken about here, it’d be particularly great to hear your opinions on this term and this season of schools rugby. Who has impressed you, who has not, who will you be keeping an eye on next year, what memories of school rugby will stick with you if you are leaving school? You can just leave a comment in the box below, or you can join in the debate on Twitter (@FifteenRugbyXV) or if you really want to tell me personally how wrong I am then you can Tweet me directly!

Enjoy the Easter break!

By Angus Savage


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