A Happy New Year to all and I hope you enjoyed a good Christmas break, not that the rugby slowed down a whole lot over the festive period.
It is definitely good to be back in the full swing of things now though, with a full looking schools rugby fixture list tomorrow as well as plenty of U18 Premiership action and also some Independent School Lambs RFC games on Sunday.
I thought I would use this first blog of the new year to just take a quick look ahead at some of the key dates, fixtures, and tournaments for this Easter term, always an engaging few months of schools rugby.
The term ahead looks an exciting one, on the fifteen-a-side front we have the culmination of the two-term rugby school’s fixtures, as well as the business end of the NatWest Cup, which will see the last 16 and quarter finals take place over the next month to six weeks ahead of the semi finals at Allianz Park on Saturday 5th March for the U18s and Sunday 6th March for the U15s. We then have the final on Wednesday 16th March.
That week of the 16th March also includes the HSBC Rosslyn Park National Schools 7s, which we a proud to be the media partners for. The draw for Rosslyn Park was revealed earlier this evening, and you can see the full details of it elsewhere in this week’s Weekend Review and elsewhere on the website. Suffice to say, there are a fair few tasty looking groups!
For many schools, from a rugby perspective, this term is all about building up to Rosslyn Park through the various 7s tournaments around the country this term – the bulk of which take place on Wednesday’s and Sunday’s, with the Surrey 7s on Wednesday 9th March one of the key indicators ahead of the end of season Festival. Of course we finish of the school season with the ever-popular Sedbergh 10s.
It is not just on the schools front that things will be busy though, the ISRFC Lambs are busy on most Sunday’s throughout the term, as well as a few midweek evening games against Premiership academies before their Easter tour of South America.
The U18 Premiership comes to a head this term too, there is action tomorrow and on the final two weeks of January ahead of the U18 Academy Competition Finals Day at Allianz Park on Monday 15th February.
Stepping up a level, there is also U18 international action, with England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland all in action ahead of the Rugby Europe U18 European Championships in late March/Early April.
Rising an age-group again there is also the U20 Six Nations to focus on, a key one this year ahead of the World Rugby U20 Championships in Manchester this June. While at the younger end of the spectrum, the BMW Wellington International Festival over the Easter period is always a great few days of U16 international rugby.
One luxury that the Christmas break allows is a little time to think and formulate a few ideas; it also allows us to look back on the previous term. One recurring thought that kept popping up about last term was, are school players, 1st XV players in particular, having to play too much rugby?
Regularly now teams are playing Wednesday (or another midweek day) and Saturday. If you want to really compete for some of the top prizes it is really a necessity, particularly if you want to maintain those traditional block fixtures, which I think most would agree we all must.
Obviously it is hardly in Fifteen Rugby’s best interests to advocate less school rugby, but from a players perspective it is worth questioning. Certainly there seem to have been a particularly high number of injuries this year, while many of the traditional ‘top’ sides have had some out of character wobbles, has tiredness and overuse perhaps had an effect?
It is just speculation on my part but thought provoking nonetheless. It is worth noting too that if a player is also part of a Premiership academy then they will have been involved in the U18 Academy Premiership too, meaning the only non-rugby weekend since late august will have been the Boxing Day weekend.
Of course, there is the other side of the coin. At 17 or 18 a few extra Saturday’s of rugby and some extra midweek fixtures too would have been my idea of heaven. For so many school rugby is their rugby pinnacle, why not eke out as much on field time as possible.
What would be very interesting, if wholly unscientific, would be if you could give your opinion in the voting poll below on whether you think school players are playing too much rugby or not.
As ever, if you could share the Weekend Review with others and encourage them to sign up too we would be highly appreciative, every reader and subscriber is a huge boost for us.
A Happy New Year to you all once again!