There is always a sense of excitement when the draw for the U18 NatWest Cup is released, and this year is no different. Scanning through the draw it looks like two things are clear, once again the Midlands and London & South East look to be the strongest two sections, as last year, and the Colts coming through into sixth form this year are going to be key.
Without any further ado though, here are 5 teams to watch in this yearâ€™s Cup:
Bromsgrove (Midlands A)
Last yearâ€™s champions will have a tricky time if they want to retain their title, but trophy winning experience is vital in this competition. Before Bromsgrove, Dulwich won it three times on the bounce, and Whitgift twice, experience really counts.
They will be favourites in Midlands A, though Abgindon, Bedford Modern, and others would argue otherwise, and the champions are always a side to be seen. They retain a lot of talent too, so expect them to be in the mix.
Oundle (Midlands B)
Oundle were semi finalists last year, and in fact their semi final against Bromsgrove was probably the most high-level game of the competition, such was the intensity and physicality.
They will lose none of that this year, key players, such as the Curry brothers in the back row, are moving into upper 6th and having had a sniff of a chance last year, they will want to finish the job this year. Their section is a tough one though, with Warwick and plenty of others for company.
QEGS Wakefield (North A)
Yes QEGSâ€™ U15 side that won last yearâ€™s Cup are only Colts this year, however the two sixth form yeargroups that will make up this yearâ€™s 1st XV are both U15 Cup finalists from the previous two years, and their U6th won the Rosslyn Park Colts competition too.
That experience proves their quality, but those defeats will also make their determination to succeed at U18 level even greater. They should be favourites in their North A section, though RGS Newcastle and others are tricky obstacles, and they may well be among the tournament favourites.
Reigate Grammar School (London & South East B)
Reigate Grammar Schoolâ€™s colts went unbeaten last year, playing some brilliant rugby and collecting the Rosslyn Park Colts trophy to boot. This year they will be the L6th members of the 1st XV and such success usually translates into 1st team success too.
They may not be the favourites in their section, Hampton, Harrow, Trinity, and John Fisher can all justifiably claim to have that tag, while the other London section is no less strong with the likes of Whitgift and St Josephâ€™s College. However after such Colts success, Reigate are definitely a side to watch this year, if only to see how successfully they make that translate to the 1st XV field.
Warwick (Midlands B)
This is a key year for Warwick, both of the yeargroups that they are selecting from are U15 NatWest Cup champions, a luxury that has only once happened before in this tournaments 26 year history.
U15 success nearly always means a strong 1st XV when they mature, double U15 success should mean an exceptional 1st XV, and Warwick will be putting pressure on themselves to prove that theory true. They have been handed a tricky group though, with former finalists in Northampton School for Boys and Old Swinford Hospital (interestingly all three sides that Dulwich beat in their historic run of finals are in this group), and Oundle, mentioned earlier in this list, all hoping to make their own mark.
Thatâ€™s our 5 teams to watch, among the many potential champions, who are your teams to look out for? Let us know via the comment box below, via Twitter (@FifteenRugbyXV) or via Facebook (www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby).Â