The 2015/16 schools rugby season starts this weekend, and there is plenty to be excited about.
Of course the start of the season is a little staggered, there have already been a couple of midweek games, while some schools do not begin their schedule until next weekend, but Saturday marks the generally recognised beginning.
Before we get excited about the on-field stuff, we are quite excited about a number of off-field developments coming here at Fifteen Rugby, we do not want to give away too much yet but you can expect a much sharper service with a more multimedia approach than previously, as well as a wider range of coverage and more of the sort of coverage that you tell us you want â€“ this year we really want to hear from you the audience about what stories you want told, what interviews and videos you want to see and hear.
As part of that, we want to encourage your contributions, whether you want to write blogs, send match reports, videos, and photos, or give your opinion on an issue in the rugby world, just send it in to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org – you get through to us on all of our social media channels too.
Over the next couple of weeks you will start to see the website get snappier, logos sharpen up, and our mobile offering become much easier and clearer to use â€“ all part of ensuring that we can give you the best coverage we can at the times when you use it most. The majority of users last year were looking at us via their phone, so it is vital that we make sure that that is where you get the best service from us.
To the rugby, and what a season it is set to be!
Last night we had the pleasure of being at the National Rugby Awards, where Wellington College picked up the School Team of the Year award (of which you can read about year: Team of the Year for Wellington), an award that few of our readers would dispute, one would think.
Wellington certainly seem like they will be one of the strongest sides again this year, but will they be able to retain the Daily Mail Trophy?
What of the other competitions, those appear to be very open too.
The NatWest Cup will have a very different feel, Dulwich College, winners in 2012, â€™13, & â€™14, and finalists last year have left the competition to join the Champions Trophy, which again looks like being one of the headline attractions of this first term.
Then of course there is the St Josephâ€™s Festival, which, after great success last year, will be broadening its video coverage â€“ schoolboy rugby coverage is simply getting bigger and bigger, and the popularity of the game is increasing with it. Who could have imagined before last season that we would be receiving messages from people in places such as Dubai and Singapore saying how much they were enjoying watching their children play.
The world of schools rugby is a very exciting place to be right now. We have picked out five things though that we think are really worth keeping an eye on this year.
The Champions Trophy
The Champions Trophy was a brilliant success last year, with some of the most extraordinary games, performances, and tries of the season. With the likes of Dulwich moving over to it this year, there is a strong argument to say that this is ever so quietly becoming the premier schools rugby competition.
Success in the U15 NatWest Cup is often seen as a good benchmark for looking at success as an U18 side, naturally. Well, Warwickâ€™s 1st XV this year is composed of an upper and lower 6th who both won the NatWest Cup at U15 level â€“ this is a team to keep an eye on, without doubt.
The Rugby World Cup
It is impossible to exist in the rugby bubble right now without mentioning the Rugby World Cup. Fifteen Rugby will be bringing you the odd opinion piece on during the tournament, mainly reflecting on playersâ€™ progress and path from school to the World Cup, and the national differences in attitude and coverage of schools rugby, and if there is anything there that translates to World Cup performance.
Video is the medium of choice right now on internet coverage of sport, and we want to help bring that to schools rugby. Last year we saw the tremendous social power that video has, with videos such as Tom Gormanâ€™s try in the Champions Trophy final, or Tyrese Johnson-Fisher in the U15 NatWest Vase semi final, going viral far beyond the school rugby community. We have some exciting things coming that we hope to announce shortly, but we also want to encourage you to send in your videos as much as possible, using our platform to help make your videos go viral.
Always something to keep an eye on, naturally. However this year there is more to keep an eye on besides the rugby, namely â€“ will they use their fantastic new pitch?
Not so very long ago, the Open finals day of Rosslyn Park was held at their 1st XV pitch, creating a very special atmosphere, as well as allowing players and spectators to view the honours board in the clubhouse with the list of previous winners.
In recent years, that has stopped, with everything taking place on the big open spaces at Richard Evans, Asda, Merton, and Wimbledon. The extra space means more space for sponsors, and allows sponsors to be more creative in their pitchside activities. However Rosslyn Park now have a new all-weather 1st XV pitch, a state of the art set-up, and surely a setting that would be perfect for the finals day again. The sponsorship concerns are legitimate, after all this tournament is a vital one in the calendar and history of school rugby so that sponsorship must be protected, but would it not be great to see the finals played on that pitch? It would certainly promote great 7s on a pitch that is guaranteed to be steady underfoot!
So there we go, a few thoughts ahead of Saturdayâ€™s big beginning, and a few hints at what we believe will be a vastly improved and even more popular service this year.
This is a site both about and for schools rugby though â€“ so if you have any requests, thoughts, questions, or opinions, please get in touch, we want to give you the readers the material that you want to see. You can find us at @FifteenRugbyXV www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby or email@example.com
We look forward to hearing from you, and to the season ahead!
Best of luck!
By Angus Savage