Last year with a British & Irish Lions tour on the horizon we selected an School â€˜All Starsâ€™ squad along the same lines as the Lions squad. Such was the popularity of that piece, we have decided to do the same again this year.
As with last year, we have selected the squad in exactly the way that 2013 Lions squad was selected, but with one exception â€“ a 38th player, so that we can include a third fly half.
The split is exactly the same, 21 forwards and 17 backs, including 7 members of the back three, four centres, three fly halves, three scrum halves, six props, three hookers, five second row, and five back row â€“ we were not allowed to deviate from that formula at all, meaning some very talented players miss out.
It is important to remember that this is all just a very subjective bit of fun though. It is by no means definitive; indeed it would be impossible to for it to be so. The sheer number of schools and players on the circuit means that there are a certain number of players whom we have not seen and therefore the squad is innately flawed.
What we would not want to do in selecting a side is to discourage or dishearten those who miss out because we have not seen them â€“ nor do we wish for anyone to think that we are somehow experts and that because we do not select them to our â€˜All Starsâ€™ then they are not up to it.
Ultimately it is all just a bit of fun and a chance for a bit of a debate.
What immediately became clear to us though is just how much talent there is in schoolboy rugby. We had a long list that by late last night totaled 150 names, whittling that down to just 38 names was a near impossible task and some star players ended up missing out.
As indeed did some star schools, it came as something of a shock to us that Woodhouse Groveâ€™s all conquering Daily Mail Trophy winning side had no players in the 38 (though a fair few on the long list), but that is the level of competition that there is â€“ and indeed the subjective nature of selection.
Without any further chat then â€“ here is the Fifteen Rugby School â€˜All Starsâ€™ Squad:
(AASE Colleges not included)
Sam Aspland- Robsinson â€“ Wellington College
Apsland-Robinson has been fielding high balls, evading tacklers, and racing through the gears all season long. He has a long stride that gives the impression that he is moving slower than he is (though still pretty fast), and then all of a sudden you realise he is absolutely burning past the opposition. He makes more yards than just about anyone else but he is also a real rock at the back. He lets nothing kicked at him beat him and he is a superb last line of defence.
Charlie Dockery â€“ Epsom College
Dockery was at centre for much of the unbeatable Epsom College 1st XV season, his pace, guile, and positioning all playing a key part as his team swept aside some of the biggest names in schoolboy rugby, including Wellington College, Tonbridge, and Dulwich College, but he comes in at full back having been a rock at the back there for the England Clubs & Schools side.
Ali Neden â€“ Dulwich College
Neden collected his second U18 NatWest Cup winnersâ€™ medal in a row this season as Dulwich went â€˜back to back to backâ€™, and there was perhaps no better player in the side than Neden. He was the creative spark in the side and his broken field running was simply sublime, not only that but he had the daunting task of having to take over kicking duties this year from last yearâ€™s hero Dom Fraser, a task he more than capably fulfilled.
Honourable mentions: Darren Atkins â€“ Millfield, Will Stride â€“ Warwick.
Will Bailey â€“ Clayesmore
Bailey only came to our attention here at Fifteen Rugby whilst representing the Independent School Lambs RFC. With Clayesmore not having much of a presence on the wider school rugby circuit we had not seen them play but as soon as we saw this guy in the pink of the Lambs it was clear that he was special. He finished up as the Lambs top try scorer and Player of the Season, and deservedly so. He has unbelievable pace and an unrivalled nose for the try line.
Taylor Prell â€“ Giggleswick
We are cheating slightly here as Prell is primarily a full back, however there are at least six full backs that we believe deserve a place in this squad and as Prell is equally at home on the wing we have tried to create some room! Naturally, Prell has bags of pace but it his eye for a gap, acceleration, and lovely handling skills that have impressed us. He had a stormer at the FIRA/AER Championships for England U18 too â€“ well worth keeping an eye on.
Rotimi Segun â€“ Stowe
Segun has flitted between outside centre and wing this season and has looked equally at home in either position such is his potent blend of power and pace. A Schools Cup finalist with Northampton School for Boys last year, he has looked equally dangerous for Stowe this year â€“ and he has another year to go yet! Look out for his younger brother too.
George Wacokecoke â€“ St Josephâ€™s College
Wacokecoke is just a brilliant player to watch, he has the footwork to escape just about any situation but the confidence to go and mix things up with the heavy hitters too when the situation requires it. Played an important part in St Josephâ€™s win at their own tournament, the St Josephâ€™s Festival, back in October and along with Austin Beckett (who is highly unfortunate to miss out here) forms possibly the best wing partnership in schoolboy rugby.
Honourable mentions: Austin Beckett â€“ St Josephâ€™s College, Ben Hopkins â€“ Millfield, Michael Ledger â€“ St Benedictâ€™s, Robert Stevenson â€“ Sedbergh, Anthony â€˜Twickenham hat-trickâ€™ Nzegwu â€“ Dulwich College.
Max Clark â€“ Bryanston
We have twice had the pleasure of watching Clark in action this season, and both times he stood out as being on a different level to anyone else â€“ bear in mind that this is a Bryanston side with plenty of other players with representative honours, not to mention the opposition. Clark has an excellent all round game, powerful in defence, fast over the ground, good distribution, and a confident kicking game. A thoroughly modern, and excellent, centre.
Alex Coombes â€“ Millfield
Coombes is possibly one of the most under-rated players on the circuit. It is hard to remember an occasion where he has not broken the first tackle, or at least dragged the tackler with him for five yards. He has the pace to get away from people and has scored some impressive long-range efforts, but his real quality is that ability to break tackles, to make yards, and to set up that platform for his pack and get the momentum going. The type of player that teammates love to have in their side.
Adam Hastings â€“ Millfield
Hastings faced some seriously stiff competition for this spot, notably from Shiplakeâ€™s Fili Savou and Cheltenham Collegeâ€™s Ollie Thorley, but he has nailed it down on the basis of his all round game. Hastingsâ€™ style is probably what the All Blacks had in mind with the term â€˜second 5/8thâ€™, he has a wonderful pass and a booming boot that means he offers that second option outside of the ten. He carries very strongly too though, which allows him to use his pass even more devastatingly as he can take it right to the line, knowing his carrying can take over if it is not on. He is a superb reader of the game too; the number of interceptions he has snaffled is startling.
Ross Neal â€“ RGS High Wycombe
Scott Quinnell once said of Martin Johnson: â€œHeâ€™d ask you to run through brick walls for the team but itâ€™d be ok because there was already a big Martin Johnson shaped hole there.â€ Thatâ€™s the type of guy that Neal is, he is quite happy to run into unpleasant places for his team running the hard line to give Ben Wood, his fly half, the space to play in. Donâ€™t mistake that for being one-dimensional though, far from it Neal can certainly play, as his London Irish contract testifies.
Honourable mentions: Fili Savou â€“ Shiplake College, Charlie Norman â€“ Marlborough College, Ollie Thorley â€“ Cheltenham College, Roman Malin-Hiscock â€“ Hampton.
Dan Lewis â€“ St Josephâ€™s College
Lewis collected the joint Player of the Tournament award (along with his captain Lewis Ludlum) at the St Josephâ€™s Festival, and deservedly so. His ability to guide his team around the park either with the boot or through his distribution was absolutely key, and he has been carrying that on all season. His rising profile culminated in representing the England u18 Clubs & School side over Easter, where once again he impressed.
Harry Mallinder â€“ Rugby
Mallinder has captained every side he has played for this season, Rugby School, Northampton Saints U18s, and England U18s â€“ a pretty impressive roll of honour. It is no accident either; Mallinder is an excellent communicator and a calm head on the field. He can play a bit too â€“ he has an absolutely booming kick, wonderful distribution, and the ability to break the line both through stealth and power. The big frame of his comes in handy in defence too, and makes him equally at home in the centres.
Callum Sheedy â€“ Millfield
Sheedy was captain of Millfield this year, and you can see why â€“ for a man already bearing the considerable workload of playing at fly half, his ability to constantly communicate is highly impressive. Encouraged by the Millfield ethos, Sheedyâ€™s instinct is always to play and his brilliant distribution skills allow that to happen at all times. He can kick and run excellently too but would always rather put pace and width on the ball, making him a real pleasure to watch from the sidelines. Should be a big hit down at Bristol next year.
Honourable mentions: Theo Brophy-Clews â€“ Abingdon, Ben Wood â€“ RGS High Wycombe, Rory Jennings â€“ Bryanston.
James Christie â€“ Sedbergh
Christie captained Sedbergh to second place in the inaugural Daily Mail Trophy this season, and was absolutely crucial to that achievement. He is very much a classic scrum half, with a crisp pass, an eye for a break, and with absolutely no qualms about getting stuck in and behaving like a fourth member of the back row if needs be. He has been vital to Sedberghâ€™s style of play, but more than that, he has the ability to play with his head up and find the space. Brilliant against a drift defence, where he allows the drift to pass by as he waits for a mismatch.
Alex Mitchell â€“ Lymm High School
Alexâ€™s brother James was the Lymm High School, Sale Sharks, and England U18 scrum half last year, so the pressure was somewhat on Alexâ€™s shoulders this year â€“ but boy has he risen to it! Like his brother before him, Alex has played at scrum half for England, Sale, and Lymm this season, and has another season of it to go. He has a razor sharp pass, an eye for a gap, and lovely all round skills. He was the outstanding player in Lymmâ€™s run to the NatWest cup quarter finals, where the eventual champions Dulwich College stood in their way, and he will be hoping for more of the same next year.
Tom Whiteley â€“ Millfield
Whiteley was in this squad as a full back last year but having moved to scrum half this year he makes it again in his new position. Whiteley has arguably the fastest feet in schoolboy rugby and is a defenderâ€™s nightmare; you simply do not have him covered until he is on the floor. The move to scrum half has meant that he has had his hands on the ball even more this season, and with that the opportunity to pick and choose his moments to maximise his effectiveness. So good has his form been that it has been rewarded with a Saracens call up. He has truly been one of, if not the most, exciting players to watch over the last two years.
Honourable mentions: Jack Maunder â€“ Blundellâ€™s, Ben Pointon â€“ Rugby, Will Homer â€“ Sherborne, Jack Maplesden â€“ Woodhouse Grove, Akira Takenaka â€“ Hampton, Harry Bassett â€“ Warwick.
James Fish â€“ Trent College
Fish became one of the most talked about players in schoolboy rugby at one point this year as his school, Trent College, tried to persuade England U18s to release him for their NatWest Vase final. It became obvious why they wanted him so much as his dominant style of play helped his side to victory over Exeter College at Twickenham.
Charlie Piper â€“ Cranleigh
Piper has been snapped up by Harlequins after some impressive performances this season. The mobile hooker plays like an extra back row player, keeping his nose low to the ground and looking to sniff out turnover opportunities. He has real leadership qualities and has been absolutely vital for Cranleigh over the past two years.
Callum Young â€“ Bromsgrove
Bromsgrove had a very good season, only losing three times, and Callum Young played a big part in that. The stocky hooker carries like a machine and his defence has played a big part in a number of Bromsgrove results â€“ they have had some of the tightest results on the circuit this year. His experience with the Worcester Warriors academy has been well deserved.
Honourable Mentions: Locryn Williams â€“ Truro School, Daniel Radigan â€“ Woodhouse Grove.
Seb Adeniran-Olule â€“ Wellington College
Seb has jumped between prop and hooker this year, showing his impressive versatility. Naturally he is very strong at the scrum but it is his ball carrying that is his most striking ability. Several times he has burst through the line this season with the sort of speed, power, and skill that you might expect of a good back row or a big centre. Unsurprisingly, he has been rewarded with a contract at Harlequins for next year, and if he plays as he has this season for Wellington â€“ he will be a name to remember.
James Catlin â€“ Millfield
Catlin is a big man at any age-group, but a huge one at U18. He does his basics very well, scrummaging excellently, negotiating the lineout well, and clearing rucks like a bulldozer, but what really sets him apart from other props are his ball skills and his pace. You do not see many props in 7s teams but Catlin was in the all conquering Millfield 7s side (7s performances have not contributed to this list, but the fact that he was in that squad demonstrates his ball skills), and while a school level it is common to see props have a run at number 8, it is not at representative level, but Catlin has played there for Bath U18s. We are also told that he can match the fastest men in Millfieldâ€™s 1st XV over 40 metres, not bad at all.
Ben Christie â€“ Bristol Grammar School
Christie has been outstanding for Bristol Grammar School all year, but his performances for the Independent School Lambs were simply sensational. He was named the Playersâ€™ Player of the Season and it is easy to see why, the guy is an absolutely powerhouse. He does his duties as prop very well but it is the destructive nature of his ball carrying and defence that really catch the eye, and it is no surprise to see how often he is on the scoresheet given his incredible power. He also has very good hands, and not just â€˜for a propâ€™, Christie is a top player, regardless of number.
Josh Ibuanokpe â€“ Dulwich College
â€˜Big Joshâ€™, as he is known across the school rugby world, collected his third Schools Cup title in a row this year, a brilliant achievement made even better given that he plys his trade in the unforgiving arena of the front row. He has spent time at number 8 because of his destructive ball carrying but prop is his natural home, where he can focus on doing all of those heavy duty but unseen things that every side needs. The big ball carrying is still always in evidence but his size is equally useful at the breakdown and in his defence, where he is equally effective either smashing people back or wrapping them up. It is also no surprise that his tenure in the Dulwich pack has coincided with them forming the most destructive maul on the circuit â€“ Ibuanokpe will always be there in the thick of it, and you can bet your mortgage that he is laying down a good chuck of that destructive force.
Oliver Lamprell â€“ Oundle
The Oundle and Northampton Saints prop is our kind of prop. Does all of his basics well but also loves to carry. Lamprell can often be found on the shoulders of this fly half and centres, bulldozing into the oppositionâ€™s backline. Heâ€™s a useful player to have in defence too, where he sends people backwards with delight, and he gets over the ball well too.
James Orritt â€“ Sedbergh
Orritt, we think, would quite happily admit that he loves a scrum â€“ he is that kind of prop, a guy who loves the close quarters heavy-duty hard work. He is mighty good at it too, his form for Sedbergh this year has seen him selected for the England U17s and deservedly so. He will smash anything in his sight, but like all good props he enjoys a rumble with the ball in hand too, and has had plenty of opportunity to as this Sedbergh side has been on the front foot and playing a lot of rugby.
Honourable mentions: Jake Ellwood â€“ Durham, Dom Fernandes â€“ Dulwich College, Ciaran Parker â€“ St Ambrose College.
Jonny Coser â€“ Barnard Castle
It has been a quiet few years for Barnard Castle but this proud rugby school is still producing some absolutely top quality players, Coser very much being one of them. Coser has impressed with his all-round abilities for Barnard Castle, and managed to secure a spot in the England U18 Clubs & Schools side for their France tour over Easter after some impressive performances for his school and the Newcastle U18s side.
Andrew Kitchener â€“ Adams Grammar School
It is not always easy to be in the shadow of an outstanding sibling, Andrewâ€™s brother George captains England against the Barbarians on the 1st June, but Andrew has been outstanding for his school this year. Adams Grammar School are well respected but not a big name on the school rugby circuit, but this year they have been superb, and their run to the quarter-finals of the NatWest Cup really captured the imagination, with Kitchenerâ€™s influence and play being absolutely vital to that run.
Stan South â€“ Whitgift
The big lock has had another impressive season for Whitgift, Harlequins, and England U18. South is a destructive ball carrier and a canny lineout operator but he offers much more than that. He covers the ground well, and has made plenty of dramatic covering tackles this season, going beyond what you might expect of a big second row. He has good handling skills and has really been a big driving force for this Whitgift side.
Kieran Treadwell â€“ John Fisher
Treadwell is an excellent all-round lock and has been very impressive both for school and club this season, securing a contract with Harlequins for next season, where he will play alongside his Croydon rival, Stan South. Treadwell Has been spoken about in glowing terms for a while now, and it was interesting to hear one recent Harlequins academy graduate mention Treadwell as one to watch. If he can bring the form around the park that he has shown this year for John Fisher then it is not hard to see why.
Theo Vukasinovic â€“ Reedsâ€™
Vukasinovic has done fantastically well for Reedsâ€™ this year, using his giant frame to dominate both the set piece and the loose. Perhaps his most impressive feat though has been his ability to translate that form to the professional game with London Irish. He became a key player in their U18 side, which is dominated by their AASE players, and has been rewarded with a contract. For Reedsâ€™ though he has been the talisman this year, and a shoo-in for this squad.
Honourable mentions: Josh Peters â€“ Oundle, Huw Taylor â€“ Old Swinford Hospital, Hugh Sloan â€“ KES Bath.
Henry Cheeseman â€“ Whitgift
There does not seem to be a lot that Cheeseman cannot do. A number 8 by trade, he has played there for Harlequins and England U18, Cheeseman spent much of this season in the centres for his school, such is his skillset. He is unbelievably quick, has great hands, top defence, and carries powerfully, skills which have already seen him make some very high profile 7s appearances, and which will surely see him in the England 7s squad soon. It is at number 8 that we pick him for our squad though, although with a pro contract now tied up with Harlequins, it would be interesting to see him get a run at 7 for them.
Ben Earl â€“ Tonbridge
Watching Earl this season it is pretty difficult to believe that he is an Under 16, but that is what he is â€“ although it did take him actually appearing for, and captaining, England U16s before everyone could truly believe it. Earl has been truly outstanding all year, breaking tackles almost at will and showing serious speed and excellent handling skills too. It is not a case of him being â€˜big for his ageâ€™ either, though of course he is, Earl has been physically dominating players who are two or three years his senior â€“ he is big guy for any age. It is not just the power though; his all round skills and athleticism are really very impressive. It is quite a back row production line that Tonbridge have; Matt Elliet, Matt Blandford, and now Ben Earl. Impressive.
Ed Forshaw â€“ Wellington College
There is a reason that captains are so often found in the back row, the nature of their position forces them to lead by example and make that proverbial hole in the brick wall for their teammates and Forshaw has done so brilliantly this season. A superb tackler, particularly the â€˜chopâ€™ tackle, and excellent over the ball â€“ Forshaw is vital for his team. He also carries very strongly and does a lot of unseen tidying up for his side.
Lewis Ludlum â€“ St Josephâ€™s College
Ludlum was named joint player of the tournament as he captained St Josephâ€™s College to their emotional St Josephâ€™s Festival victory, and deservedly so. Never has a side mirrored their captain so much as that team as they played with pure heart, passion, and determination. Ludlum offers so much more though, he is a true back row technician, he is comfortable across the back row and is a breakdown maestro, always leaving various body parts craftily in the way. He also always seems to finish up with an absurdly high tackle count.
Ollie Lyons â€“ Bedford
Lyons is possibly the most destructive ball carrier at schoolboy level in the country. The big number 8 is pretty much unstoppable, and physically he looks like he is operating on a completely different level to anyone else that he comes up against. Defenders up and down the county will still be having nightmares about him running off the back of the scrum or off the shoulder of his fly half, Paddy McDuell. There will be a fair few attackers shuddering too having received one of his thunderous tackles.
Felix Maddison â€“ Dulwich College
Captain fantastic. Maddison led Dulwich College to a third NatWest Cup trophy in a row and truly epitomised his team. There can be few players who have worked harder for their teams cause that Maddison and his performance in the semi final was truly brilliant. Ably supported by Funsho Olalye and John Winter, Maddison kept RGS out against all the odds, making an outrageous amount of tackles and creating crucial turnovers and penalties. His insatiable passion for the shirt filtered through the whole squad.
Alex Murphy â€“ RGS High Wycombe
RGS have had a great season and much of it has been built on forward domination and starving the opposition of ball and territory. Murphy has been key to that. He has an astonishingly high work rate, defends brilliantly and steals ball seemingly at will. He has very much been the platform creator for this excellent RGS side.
Honourable mentions: John Radford â€“ Millfield, Funsho Olalye â€“ Dulwich College, Archie White â€“ Epsom College, Sam Underhill â€“ Sir Thomas Richâ€™s, Joe Blake â€“ Warwick, James McRae â€“ Eton College, Will Wilson – Wellington College.
If only we could actually put this squad together in person and get a â€˜Lionsâ€™ tour going!
For those interested – here’s last year’s squad:Â http://www.fifteenrugby.com/school-rugby/blog/all-star-schools-squad-revealed/Â
Do you agree with our â€˜All Starsâ€™ squad? Let us know who you think should be included â€“ you can get in touch via Twitter (@FifteenRugbyXV), Facebook (www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby) or via the comment box below.