This week is the first big midweek of the school season so far, and also marks the beginning of a new and exciting competition, the Schools Champions Trophy.
The Champions Trophy is a new tournament set up by the RFU for one term rugby schools. It operates in a straight knockout format from round two onwards, with the final taking place at the end of term at Allianz Park.
In the first round there are thirty-two teams, drawn into knockout games on a regional basis before the draw goes national for the following rounds. With some of the very top teams in the country, both historically and on current form, included in the draw, it looks set to become a firm favourite for many, despite only being in a â€˜trial yearâ€™.
Eleven of the sixteen opening round fixtures are confirmed to take place this midweek, with another, Colstonâ€™s v Blundellâ€™s, taking place on Saturday.
The grand opening for the competition will take place in Rutland as Uppingham welcome last yearâ€™s Daily Mail Trophy champions, Woodhouse Grove, to their excellent 1st XV pitch.
Having been beaten 51-0 by Bedford on Saturday, Uppingham will be understandably nervous, however with Woodhouse Grove falling to St Peterâ€™s York (a fate that never befell them in last yearâ€™s competition) Uppingham may feel that they are vulnerable.
Woodhouse Grove though will be looking to bounce back with aplomb and prove that they were no â€˜one-season wondersâ€™.
The remaining ten confirmed midweek games in the competition all take place on Wednesday, and what a treat Wednesday has in store with some of the most famous names in the business taking to the field. The likes of Epsom College, Tonbridge, Bryanston, and Barnard Castle all take to the field as well as what looks like a good early shout for the tie of the round, Grammar School at Leeds v RGS Newcastle.
That really should be an excellent game. Grammar School at Leeds are in a good position to be regarded as one of the best in the country come the end of the term and will be targeting this competition as a good way to win some silverware. Having hit the half century in both of their opening fixtures, they are in prime position to do something special.
RGS Newcastle are looking pretty handy themselves though. They have beaten George Watsonâ€™s and Durham so far this season, with their 41-17 destruction of Durham at Kingston Park on Friday night really displaying their brilliance this term. This game will be spectacular.
Durham are also involved in the competition, they welcome Bradford Grammar School on Wednesday for what should be another top game in this exciting looking competition.
RGS Lancasterâ€™s trip to Barnard Castle ought to be a good game too, Barnard Castle will be favourites after a decent start though.
Elsewhere in the North/Midlands section, QEGS Wakefield welcome Bedford to town. QEGS have a proud record but will face a very stern test against this Bedford side, particularly off the back of that 51-0 humbling of Uppingham.
Further south there is still plenty of excitement. Two of Readingâ€™s premier schools, Reading Blue Coat and Reading School, face two of the most challenging 1st XVs on the circuit in Bryanston and Tonbridge respectively. Having both of those sides in a knockout competition will be a real thrill to see as both have been uninvolved in the NatWest Cup in recent years.
Nor too have a team that for many were the best team in the country last season, Epsom College. They are looking pretty good again this year with two wins from two, and this competition could be just what they need to make a challenge for silverware and perhaps more recognition of their feats. They welcome Bishopâ€™s Stortford High School for what will be a tricky game for the visitors.
Elsewhere Gordonâ€™s School welcome Eltham College to town for what promises to be a reasonably even contest. As should Caterham v Eastbourne College, two schools who are working hard to break into the higher reaches of schools rugby and impressing many along the way.
Down in the South West there is also plenty of excitement as Kingâ€™s College Taunton welcome Marlborough College to town for what should be real clash of the titans. Both sides lost at the weekend, to Clifton College and St Paulâ€™s respectively, but do not let that fool you. Many teams will lose to those two and Kingâ€™s and Marlborough will be desperate to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.
It is a busy week outside of the Champions Trophy too. Craighouse, the Chilean touring side who beat Oakham 46-0 last week, play twice, against Canford on Tuesday and against Bristol Grammar School on Thursday.
Also on Tuesday is a midweek game at Felsted, with the newly resurgent Haileybury the visitors. Despite losing to Bedford Modern on Saturday, what a season they are having, Haileybury ought to be the favourites.
There is plenty to be excited about on Wednesday outside of the new competition too, as St Ambrose travel to Audenshaw and Lord Wandsworth College welcome Pangbourne.
Other highlights on Wednesday will see St Peterâ€™s Gloucester play Beaufort and Shiplake College play Henley College, as well as several opening round fixtures in the NatWest Cup, while the real highlight of the day outside of the Champions Trophy will likely be Wilmslow Highâ€™s tough trip to Sedbergh.
Thursday is less busy but no less exciting and competitive. There is the aforementioned fixtures between Bristol Grammar School and Craighouse as well an exciting looking fixture between Dean Close and Magdalen College.
Do you agree with our predictions below? What do you think of the introduction of the new Champions Trophy â€“ is it a good thing? Let us know via the comment box below or via @FifteenRugbyXV
Midweek School Fixtures (predictions in bold):
Canford 10-23Â Craighouse (Chile)Â
Felsted v HaileyburyÂ
Uppingham 13-15Â Woodhouse GroveÂ â€“ Champions Trophy
Audenshaw v St Ambrose College (14.00)
Barnard Castle v RGS Lancaster (14.30) â€“ Champions Trophy
Caterham v Eastbourne College (15.00) â€“ Champions Trophy
Durham v Bradford GS (15.30) â€“ Champions Trophy
Epsom College v Bishopâ€™s Stortford High School (15.00) â€“ Champions Trophy
Gordonâ€™s v Eltham College (14.30) â€“ Champions Trophy
Grammar School at Leeds v RGS Newcastle (14.30) â€“ Champions Trophy
Kingâ€™s College Taunton v Marlborough College (15.00) â€“ Champions Trophy
Lord Wandsworth College v Pangbourne (14.30)
Plymouth College v Millfield â€“ Cancelled â€“ Champions Trophy
QEGS Wakefield v Bedford (14.30) â€“ Champions Trophy
Reading Blue Coat v Bryanston (15.00) â€“ Champions Trophy
Sedbergh v Wilmslow High (15.15)
Shiplake College v Henley College (14.30)
St Peterâ€™s Gloucester v Beaufort (14.30)
Tonbridge v Reading (14.45) â€“ Champions Trophy
Welbeck v Nottingham High School (14.30)
Worksop v Kingâ€™s Grantham (14.30)
Wrekin v Shrewsbury (14.30)
Bristol GS v Craighouse (Chile) (14.45)
Magdalen College v Dean Close (16.30)
Other Schools Champions Trophy Fixtures:
Colstonâ€™s v Blundellls, Saturday.
Cranbrook v RGS Guildford, TBA
Eton College v Haileybury, TBA
Hull Collegiate v Oakham, TBA