Registration for the 2016/16 NatWest Schools Cup opened today, and with it comes the announcement of a major shake up of the flagship schools rugby tournament.
Previously the two age groups, U18 and U15, all entered into the Cup in their respective age groups. Early losers would then be moved to the Vase. For the upcoming season though, teams will select upon registration whether they wish to be placed in the Cup or the Vase from the start.
Losers in the first round of the Cup will then play in the ‘Plate’, with losers form the first round of the Vase playing in the ‘Bowl’.
The move should see more schools enter the NatWest competitions, but should also see more schools in the competition for longer, and do a way with, or at least minimize, the number of walkovers and big scorelines that had come to dominate the early rounds of the Cup in recent years.
There U18 competitions see one further change; the hugely successful Champions Trophy, won last year by Bedford School, now comes under the umbrella of the NatWest sponsorship, and will be regarded as the ‘Tier 1’ U18 competition, with 32 teams entering. The final for this will still be held in November though, as in 2014 and 2015, while the NatWest Cup, NatWest Vase, NatWest Plate, and NatWest Bowl finals will be at the end of the 2016/17 season.
At both U18 and U15 level the Cup and Vase finals will continue to be held at Twickenham, with the venues for the Plate and Bowl finals still to be announced.
The structure is certainly a departure from what has been a reasonably successful formula to date, but with the popularity and competitiveness of schools rugby ever increasing, this move should serve to get as many schools playing for as long as possible, and in competitive games across each competition.
NatWest Schools Cup Structures:
Tier 1 – Champions Trophy (32 teams)
Tier 2 – Cup (128 teams)
Tier 3 – Plate (Round 1 Cup losers – 64 teams)
Tier 4 – Vase (256 teams)
Tier 5 – Bowl (Round 1 Vase losers – 128 teams)
Tier 1 – Cup (256 teams)
Tier 2 – Plate (Round 1 Cup losers – 128 teams)
Tier 3 – Vase (256 teams, with the first round losers entering the Bowl.
Tier 4 – Bowl (Round 1 Vase losers – 128 teams)