With the new season approaching fast, we thought it would be able helpful to give you a breakdown of the key dates in the schools rugby calendar for the 2016/17 season in the first issue of the season of The Weekend Review.
First of all though, there have been a couple of structural changes to the NatWest Cup competitions. Essentially, the Vase is now entered at the same time as the Cup, with schools choosing which of the two to enter. Losers in the first round of the Cup now go into the new Plate competition, and losers of the Vase first round go into the new Bowl competition.
The only other change is at U18 level, where the Champions Trophy is now considered to be the ‘top tier’ of the NatWest competitions. With its final taking place in November though, fundamentally little has changed on that front bar the fact that it now falls under the NatWest banner.
Champions Trophy (Tier 1)
NatWest Cup (Tier 2)
NatWest Plate (Tier 3)
NatWest Vase (Tier 4)
NatWest Bowl (Tier 5)
NatWest Cup (Tier 1)
NatWest Plate (Tier 2)
NatWest Vase (Tier 3)
NatWest Bowl (Tier 4)
With that tidied up, here are the key dates for you to look out for this season:
It is a reasonably quiet start to the season in terms of key dates, the first to look out for is the week of the 26th-30th September which will see the Champions Trophy, NatWest Cup, and NatWest Vase all commence.
Each Wednesday from the 31st August-12th October will see fixtures from the first group stage of the AASE League.
The season really kicks into gear in October. The 10th-14th sees the second round of the Champions Trophy, NatWest Cup, and NatWest Vase take place, while the NatWest Plate and Bowl tournaments commence following the first rounds of the other two tournaments.
The weekend of the 16th-17th sees one of the biggest tournaments of the school season take place, the St Joseph’s Festival. We will cover every minute of the tournament live.
From Wednesday 26th October the AASE second group phase starts, it lasts until Wednesday 16th November. Also during half term the first round of the U18 Academy Premiership takes place.
The week of the 31st October-4th November is a busy one, it includes the quarter-finals of the Champions Trophy. Also taking palce that week are the NatWest Cup & Vase 5th rounds and the Plate & Bowl U18 second rounds.
During the week of the 14th-18th the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy take place. Alongside that there is the 4th round of the U18 NatWest Cup & Vase, the 3rd round of the U18 Plate & Bowl and of the U15 Cup & Vase, as well as the 2nd round of the U15 Plate & Bowl.
It is then quarter-finals time in the U18 NatWest Cup & NatWest Plate between the 28th November & 2nd December. The Vase enters the 5th round with the U18 Bowl and U15 Cup & Vase entering the 4th round. That week sees the U15 Plate & Bowl reach their 3rd rounds.
The key date in November though, without doubt, is Wednesday 30th. It sees the finals of both the Champions Trophy and the AASE League. Once again these take place back to back at the same venue, most likely Saracens’ Allianz Park.
December is a quitter month as things slow down for the Christmas holidays. One key date to look out for is Saturday 10th. It is the final scheduled weekend of play in the Daily Mail Trophy and if it is anything like last year then it will be worth keeping a very close eye on.
December also sees the U18 Academy Premiership resume and carry through into January and February.
It is back to the Cups in January, with the 5th round of the U15 NatWest Cup & Vase and the 4th round of the U15 Plate & Bowl taking place on the week of the 16th-20th.
We are then right into the deep end from the week of the 30th January-3rd February with the U15 NatWest Cup, Plate, Vase, & Bowl quarter finals.
February is a quiet month in terms of major key dates, with a few of the 7s tournaments beginning to start up and a half term break in the middle of a short month, however those quarter finals will be taking place most likely on the 1st and 2nd of the month.
There are then U18 quarter finals the following week, 6th-10th as the U18 NatWest Vase & Bowl quarter finals take place.
February also sees the U20 Six Nations commence, in which Wales last year won the Grand Slam.
March is probably the busiest month of the year in terms of key dates. It also includes almost all of the major 7s tournaments, as well as the continuation of the U20 Six Nations.
The first key date in March is Saturday 4th. That sees the semi finals of the U18 NatWest Cup, Plate, Vase, & Bowl competitions take place at Saracens’ Allianz Park.
It is back to Allianz Park on the weekend of the 18th/19th for the U15s semi finals. Again the Cup, Plate, Vase, & Bowl all take place at the same venue.
It is a hop across London on the Monday to the HSBC Rosslyn Park National School 7s, this year they run from Monday 20th to Friday 24th. The great news this year is that there is no clash with the finals of the NatWest competitions!
That is because this year the NatWest Cup finals take place the following week. Tuesday 28th March sees the finals of the U18 & U15 Plate & Bowl competitions take place at Twickenham Stadium. That is followed the next day, Wednesday 29th March, by the finals of the U18 & U15 NatWest Cup and NatWest Vase.
Schools rugby shuts down a little in April over the Easter holidays, however England U16 v Wales U16 is scheduled to take place, while England U18 and the other Home Unions will have plenty of U18 internationals over April, as well as the England Counties U18 side.
More junior internationals take place in May, as well as a number of 7s tournaments that are likely to see plenty of school players in action, such as the London Floodlit 7s at Rosslyn Park, and the Greene King IPA 7s at Bury St Edmunds RFC.
May will also see squads announced for the World Rugby U20 Championships.
June sees the return of the World Rugby U20 Championships, with England bidding to win back to back titles, and a fourth title in five years.
This year’s tournament takes place in Georgia, with speculation that a successful tournament for the host nation could the Six Nations board try to find a space for them in the U20 Six Nations roster in future years.
July is genuine off-season territory, though it of course also marks the start of a number of summer tours for schools across the country.
What July also offers is the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s, which often sees plenty of school stars included in the squads, as well as vast swathes of recent leavers just setting about their first pre-season in professional rugby.
August brings us right back around to complete the circle, with England U18 embarking on their annual summer tour. It will also see pre-season tours and summer tours for many schools, as well as the start of the serious pre-season games, and perhaps even a few official games may creep into August, as they do on the 31st this year.
It looks as though we are in for a treat of a season once again! We will update this key dates calendar as the confirmed dates come through for many of the post Easter term 7s tournaments, as well as competitions such as the Sedbergh 10s.
Until then, enjoy the season, we’ll be covering it every step of the way!