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2015/16 School Season Set To Start In Style – Previews & Predictions

This weekend marks the start of the 2015/16 school season, meaning that we have our first weekend preview of the season too.

There are some fascinating games all across the country, with some very interesting sub plots too. At this stage of the year it is hard to know where each team stands, will they have improved or fallen away since last season?

Of course, generally speaking, there are teams that you can usually rely on to be reasonably strong, but the pecking order is always subtly changing and until that whitewash has been crossed, it is all a bit of an unknown to those of us on the outside.

As was the case last year, our preview begins with the five games featured in our Daily Mail Trophy Prediction Competition, and we begin that with five huge games.

Abingdon v St Edward’s, Oxford

An Oxford derby between two schools who have been on an upwards trajectory over the last few seasons.

Abingdon were particularly impressive last season, finishing in the top ten in the Daily Mail Trophy. They have lost England U18 fly half Theo Brophy-Clews though, how big a loss will that prove? They did well without him on pre-season tour, but the regular season might well be a different kettle of fish.

Teddies will know that, and will know that they have good plaeyrs in their ranks too, and with local bragging right at stake, will fancy their chances of a sneaky away win.

Prediction – Abingdon

Epsom College v Tonbridge

A huge season for both sides this, Epsom have been hugely consistent for a couple of years now but lose some mighty talent this season, including the immense Archie White. Tonbridge have been just shy of their level recently, but had some major lower 6th talent last year including the irrepressible Ben Earl.

That sets this one up to be a titanic battle between two sides who will want to define themselves early on as being up there with the main contenders this year, and a win will be vital to that.

Expect this to be hugely physical.

Prediction – Tonbridge, by a whisker.

Sedbergh v Whitgift

There is not a lot of previewing that needs to be done here, just look at the two names of the teams and that tells school rugby fans everything you need to know – this is a huge game.

Both sides face pressure of sorts. Sedbergh were up there with the very best last year and were involved in that superb game v Wellington. They have lost a lot of top class schoolboy internationals though, however with the likes of Ali Crossdale, they still have quality in abundance.

Whitgift face a different pressure, they perhaps slightly underperformed last year, though they did beat Sedbergh, and will want to rectify that this year. A long away trip to Cumbria is a tough way to start the campaign though.

Prediction – Sedbergh

Stowe v Bedford

This has become one of the real key fixtures in the Midlands over the last couple of years, with both sides generally among the top teams around.

Both lose some top class school rugby players, but both have excellent players coming through. Were this game in November we would probably plump for Stowe, but Bedford have been a delight to watch on hard pitches over the past two seasons, using the wide space and their good running lines very well. An early September fixture therefore perhaps puts the game slightly in their favour. It’s a tough call though.

Prediction – Bedford, maybe.

Wellington College v RGS High Wycombe

A very interesting fixture this – how much strength have Wellington College, who last night won the National Rugby Awards School Team of the Year, retained from last year’s sensational group?

The answer is plenty, of course, but the pressure of living up to that is not insignificant. RGS are a tough opposition, and come into the game with a win over under their belts already, 24-7 v Solihull on Tuesday.

Wellington College should win this, but RGS will be strong and come in hot. It will be worth keeping an eye on at least.

Prediction – Wellington College

There is plenty going on outside of those five games too, and we have handpicked five games that we think should be both very competitive and very interesting, both on Saturday and as longer term indicators.

Berkhamsted v Northampton School for Boys

The 2013 NatWest Cup finalists travel to Berkhamsted, who are set to be one of the teams to keep a lookout for as dark horses this year. They won the prestigious Tynedale Pre-Season Festival at the weekend, and that always merits people sitting up and paying attention.

Prediction – Berkhamsted

Monmouth v Sherborne

Monmouth were one of the revelations of the season in 2014/15 and were shortlisted for yesterday’s School Team of the Year award at the National Rugby Awards.

Sherborne meanwhile probably hoped for better and will want to make an early mark this year. It should make for a fascinating game, with the winner likely to enjoy an impressive year.

Prediction – Monmouth

Oakham v Denstone College

Hampton coaching guru Zoran Higgins has moved up to Oakham, and given his work at Hampton it seems likely that Oakham might start to see similar results in time too. Saturday’s game v Denstone, a side who were excellent last year, will therefore be very interesting.

They were relatively evenly matched last year and should be again this, so it should be an exciting game even without any back story. One would think the Oakham boys will be keen to impress in Higgins’ first game though.

Prediction – Oakham, just.

Rugby v Solihull

A home Rugby World Cup puts a rather unique pressure on Rugby. As the home of the sport, they are being watched by the world’s media. There is even a tour of the school for travelling media in a couple of weeks time.

It is therefore important for them to get off to a strong start, and Solihull are no easy opponent to face, especially as they will be looking to fight back after a midweek defeat to RGS High Wycombe.

Rugby ought just to be favourites though, they have good players a good new recruits such as England U16 international Tom Hardwick.

Prediction – Rugby

Warwick v Dulwich College

In our pre-season editorial, Warwick are listed as one of the five things to keep an eye on this season. The reason being that they have two yeargroups in their 1st XV who both won the U15 NatWest Cup, making them strong favourites to impress this year.

Dulwich, by contrast, start a season for the first time since 2011 where they are not the reigning NatWest Cup champions. That said, they are the reigning runners up after three years as champions, so it is hardly crisis time, or anything like it.

Nevertheless, both narratives make this a fascinating game. Either side could win it you feel, but home advantage probably tips the balance in Warwick’s favour…just. Perhaps.

Prediction – Warwick

We are all set for a superb start for the season, and there is even some action on Sunday too, with some pre-season tournaments as well as a good looking fixture between Uppingham and Loughborough Grammar School.

Let us know what you think of our predictions, and if you see any fixtures missing, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch on @FifteenRugbyXV www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby or promotions@fifteenrugby.com

 

Saturday Fixtures (predictions in bold):

Daily Mail Trophy Prediction Competition:

Abingdon v St Edward’s Oxford

Epsom College v Tonbridge

Sedbergh v Whitgift

Stowe v Bedford

Wellington College v RGS High Wycombe

Previewed:

Berkhamsted v Northampton School for Boys

Monmouth v Sherborne

Oakham v Denstone College

Rugby v Solihull

Warwick v Dulwich College

Other key fixtures:

Bishop’s Stortford College v Langley

Bishop’s Stortford College v Wymondham College

Caterham v King’s Canterbury

Christ’s Hospital v Sevenoaks

Clifton College v Bishop Wordsworth’s

Colfe’s v St Olave’s GS

Colston’s v Pate’s GS

Cranbrook v St John’s Leatherhead

Dauntsey’s v QEH

Eastbourne College v Hurstpierpoint College

Eltham College v Chislehurst & Sidcup GS

Emanuel v City of London Freemen’s

Giggleswick v Yarm

Hereford Cathedral School v Old Swinford Hospital

KCS Wimbledon v Skinners’

KES Bath v Bristol GS

KES Birmingham v RGS Worcester

Kingswood v Sir Thomas Rich’s

King’s Worcester v Trent College

Kirkham GS v Crossley Heath

Magdalen College v Malvern College

Manchester Grammar v St Ambrose College

Merchiston Castle v Queen Ethelburga’s

Norwich v Culford

Nottingham High School v King’s Grantham

Portsmouth GS v Canford

Ratcliffe College v Wolverhampton GS

Reed’s v Glyn

Reigate GS v Wimbledon College

Shiplake College v Mill Hill

St Albans v Haileybury

Stamford v Princethorpe College

St Joseph’s College v New Hall

St Paul’s School v Campion

Stockport GS v Altrincham GS

Stockport GS v Sandbach

Stockport Grammar v Woodhouse Grove

Tiffin v Wallington County Grammar

Wilmslow HS v Merchant Taylors, Crosby

Worksop College v Bradford GS

Sunday:

Uppingham v Loughborough GS

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