The excitement for the 2015/15 schools rugby season has already begun following the announcement of the Champions Trophy first round draw, and there is plenty in that draw to be excited about.
Here are a few of the key points from the draw:
Dulwich College have left the NatWest Cup
The most successful side in in NatWest Cup history since the great Colstonâ€™s side of the nineties have moved from the NatWest Cup to the Champions Trophy, a huge coup for the Champions Trophy and a hammerblow for the flagship schools competition.
Are Dulwich likely to be as successful in the Champions Trophy as they were in the NatWest Cup? Only time will tell, but they will certainly face some immensely strong schools right from the off.
Sedbergh have joined the party
As important as Dulwich College entering the Champions Trophy is the capture of Sedbergh, one of the strongest teams in schoolboy rugby history. Sedbergh played in, and won, the greatest game of last season â€“ at Broadstreet RFC against Wellington College. Bringing their weight to a competition that also includes their annual opponents Millfield, as well as Dulwich et all, is another sign of just how big and how competitive the Champions Trophy has become.
Well played England Rugby Schools
For instigating this tournament in the first place. For bringing the likes of Sedbergh, Dulwich, and Stamford into the tournament. But also for the one thing that probably will not receive that much coverage but is worth praising nonetheless, for including Faringdon Community College. In all likelihood they will lose their first round home tie against Bedford, but that is not the point. It I hugely important for the good of the game and to encourage smaller schools and state schools to play rugby and be given their place in these competitions, well done England Rugby Schools.
Is the Champions Trophy now more important than the NatWest Cup?
The question was murmured last season but this year it is screaming out to be asked. The quality of teams in the Champions Trophy is just outstanding, and while the NatWest Cup will still have some big big teams in it, there is a strong argument to say that the Champions Trophy is now the tougher of the two.
With Stamford, Kingâ€™s Macclesfield, Monmouth, and of course the 2012, â€™13, and â€™14 champions and last yearâ€™s runners-up Dulwich College, all leaving the NatWest Cup to join the Champions Trophy that argument is only strengthened. Chuck in the arrival of Sedbergh to join the cast list that already includes Millfield, Tonbridge, and Bryanston, and this really does have the feel of being the most high quality competition of all this year.
Wellington College remain on the outside
The only real shame is that Wellington College remain outside of the Champions Trophy and the NatWest Cup. How great it would have been to have a competition that included Wellington College, Millfield, and Sedbergh, three sides whose games against each other in recent years have been truly outstanding schoolboy rugby spectacles. Nevertheless, we are in for a great tournament.
What do you think of this yearâ€™s Champions Trophy draw, who are you early favourites? Do get in touch with your thoughts via @FifteenRugbyXVwww.facebook.com/FifteenRugby or via the comment box below.
Champions Trophy 1st Round Draw:
Bishop Burton v Barnard Castle
Blundellâ€™s v Canford
Bradford Grammar v Sedbergh
Bristol Grammar v Monmouth
Bryanston v Millfield
Cheltenham College v Uppingham
Eastbourne College v Epsom College
Eton v Cranbrook
Faringdon Community College v Bedford
Haileybury v Stamford
Kingâ€™s Canterbury v Dulwich College
Kingâ€™s School Macclesfield v Grammar School at Leeds
Marlborough College v Sherborne
Radley College v Oakham
RGS Guildford v Eltham College
St. Johnâ€™s Leatherhead v Tonbridge