For today’s School Stars, the Rugby World Cup is not such a distant dream

If there is one thing that those with even just a passing interest in Rugby Union know, it is that later this year the Rugby World Cup will be hosted in England.

Yet no matter how aware of that fact I might have been, it has always felt like something that is not yet right upon us, that there is an awful lot that it yet to happen before it moves front and centre of our collective attention spans.

Yesterday though it was brought squarely in front of my eyes as I was lucky enough to be invited to an event by Lycamobile, where the Webb Ellis Cup was on show, as Lycamobile are official purchasers of hospitality at the Rugby World Cup.

For the first time there was a real sense that this is a World Cup year, and all of the excitement that comes with that bubbled up.

The were are a large number of sports journalists at the event, from the wet behind the ears to the long in the tooth, but there are certain times when everyone becomes that small boy they once were and can scarcely contain their excitement, an opportunity to get up close and personal with the Rugby World Cup is one such time.

Even the guests of honour, referee Wayne Barnes and former England international Simon Halliday, were queuing up for photos with the famous cup.

Of course, we could not touch it. That is the preserve of those fortunate and skilled enough to have won it, something that sadly I am not.

So far out of reach for me, but for you, our Fifteen Rugby readers, that need not be true.

As Maro Itoje’s selection to the England Saxons shows, and indeed Anthony Watson’s to the Senior squad, the leap from the school playing fields to the international scene is not such a long one. With hard work, dedication, and a little luck, great strides can be made. Once in the squad this mystical object to the likes of us who write about it can be a realistic aim for you.

The England U20 squad was named today, the last two such squads have gone on to win the Junior World Championship. From those squads six players have already been named in the England Senior and Saxons squads named in midweek, it would be seven had George Ford not been considered too good to play in 2013 and that the rest would serve him better.

Those named in today’s squad should look at those six players and realise how close they are, and those at school now should look at the U20 squad a see just how many of them were playing alongside or against them in school colours last year. The gap is so very breachable.

That famous old pot, the Webb Ellis Cup, could be in your hands. The names and faces that you play with and against now will be the names and faces competing for it in 2019 and 2023, that much is for sure.

Of course for most it will remain, as it does for me, a distant dream, but for all of us there is the excitement of knowing that the Rugby World Cup is coming to town, and it looks set to be as competitive as ever.

The 6 Nations will get the ball rolling, ever four years we see the coverage grow for it as World Cup excitement builds, a World Cup on English soil will only see that intensify.

Casting my eye over the trophy yesterday though what struck was how few names adorn it; Australia, England, New Zealand, and South Africa. Hardly surprising, they are the only winners, but seeing it up close and personal that fact strikes home – and can anyone see the winner falling outside of those four this time?

My thanks to Lycamobile, I might never get so close to the Cup again, hopefully some of those of you reading will get a few steps closer still.

NatWest Cup excitement:

With all of the international excitement it is easy to pass over the NatWest Cup as it builds to a head. What competition it is turning out to be this year. Just fifteen schools remain in the competition, and on the surface it looks as though it is likely to be as competitive as it has been for a long time.

Fifteen Rugby are going to be teaming up with Proview Sports to offer one of the quarter finalists the chance to have their quarter final professionally analysed by Proview and with extended written coverage here at Fifteen Rugby – details will be released later but it will be an exciting opportunity.

Picking a winner of the NatWest Cup at this stage is almost impossible, Duwlich College could well make it four in a row, yet the likes of Monmouth, Bromsgrove, and St Joseph’s, among others, are all more than capable, while in Trinity School, Duwlich face a last 16 opponent that could yet prove an obstacle too far. The competition is wide open.

There were those who worried that the new Champions Trophy might dilute the Cup this year, however it seems that far from dilute it, it was left it looking like anyone’s competition.

Of course the quarter final draw will be key though, as ever. Who plays whom, who is at home; all of these things have a major impact.

Either way, it is going to be an exciting few months as we build towards finals day at Twickenham at the end of March.

With schools 7s coming up too, as well as the FIRA/AER U18 Championships, the 2015 JWC in June, and of course the World Cup, 2015 is shaping up to be a great year.

By Angus Savage

@AngusSavageXV

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