The draw for the 2016/17 NatWest Schools Cup was released today, with the competition seeing a major shake up this year.
The Champions Trophy is now incorporated into the NatWest Schools Cup umbrella, and sits at the top of the pile for the U18s, it will still finish in November though.
That is just at U18 level though, however across both competitions there are other changes. The Vase and Cup are now different competitions right from the start, with losers in the first round of the Cup then playing in the Plate, and losers from the Vase first round then playing in the Shield, leaving a tournament structure like this:
1 Champions Trophy
2 NatWest Schools Cup
3 NatWest Schools Plate
4 NatWest Schools Vase
5 NatWest Schools Shield
1 NatWest Schools Cup
2 NatWest Schools Plate
3 NatWest Schools Vase
4 NatWest Schools Shield
The Champions Trophy, as ever, looks incredibly competitive. Champions Bedford, along with the losing finalists Epsom College, 2014 Champions Millfield, Clifton College, and Blundell’s, all have first round byes.
The ten first round fixtures are all mouthwatering though. 2014 finalists, Grammar School at Leeds, play Uppingham, with 2012, ’13, and ’14 NatWest Cup champions, Dulwich College, hosting Eton College.
Sherborne were among the stars last year until an injury crisis, they travel to Bristol Grammar, while Canford host Marlborough College. Cranbrook host rising stars St John’s Leatherhead, with one of the most famous schools in schoolboy rugby, Bryanston, travelling to Kingswood.
Welsh side Monmouth will host Radley College, with twice winners of the Schools Cup, Oakham, hosting Berkhamsted. St Paul’s host RGS Guildford, while at the foot of the draw is one of the most exciting of the lot, Tonbridge v Hampton.
The U18 Cup draw looks equally tasty, with plenty of top sides still remaining. Bromsgrove have won the tournament in the last two years, and they head up a midlands section that looks like the toughest of the lot.
They open their account in Midlands B against RGS Worcester, up there with the toughest of first round draws. Also in Midlands B are the likes of Adams’ Grammar, Bishop Vesey’s, Ellesmere College, Bloxham, as well as King’s Worcester and Solihull, who face each other in arguably the tie of the opening round.
Up in Midlands A the monstrous first round ties continues, with Leicester Grammar school v Warwick and Stowe v Bedford Modern particularly standing out. This section also includes Stamford, Oundle, Bishop’s Stortford College, and last year’s Vase winners, Northampton School for Boys. Whoever emerges from the two Midlands sections is going to be a very good side indeed.
North A is not easy either, with the likes of Wilmslow High, Bradford Grammar, RGS Lancaster, Stonyhurst, and St Ambrose College all a threat, Lymm High School v King’s Macclesfield looks like the game of the first round.
North B is seriously heavyweight, with RGS Newcastle, Barnard Castle, Woodhouse Grove, Mount St Mary’s, QEGS Wakefield, Ampleforth College, Hymers College, and St Peter’s York all involved, while Durham and Yarm meet each other too. A section to rival Midlands A.
London & South East A has a number of teams to keep an eye on, New Hall v St Joseph’s College could be an exciting early game. Whitgift face Caterham and Feslted face Brentwood, while if you want a side to keep an eye on, pay attention to Eltham College, where the mastermind of Dulwich College’s “back to back to back” streak, Sam Howard, is now Director of Rugby.
Things in London & South East B ought to be exciting too, Wimbledon College and St Benedict’s produced some good games last year and meet early on this year, while the likes of KCS Wimbledon, John Fisher, and Trinity are all very capable of a long run, as always.
Oddly, the South West has appeared a little thin in recent years, there is decent strength this year though. South West B includes the likes of King’s College Taunton, Truro School, who have been very successful recently, Sir Thomas Rich’s, and a number of former champions, including St Peter’s Gloucester, RGS High Wycombe, and the most successful school in history, Colston’s, who face Bath affiliate, Weston College.
Over in South West A there is strength in the likes of Pangbourne College, Reigate Grammar School, and one side to keep an eye on, Bishop Wordsworth’s. Daunstey’s v Downside could be a game to watch.
(Click here for full draw: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/99923581/Charlotte%20H/NSC%20U18%20Cup%20Draw%202016-17.pdf)
Naturally the U18 Vase is slightly lighter in terms of big name schools, but not in terms of competitiveness. There are some exciting looking teams in there too. North A sees both Wirral Grammar school and Rydal Penrhos either could go deep in this new format. North B has good quality too, with the likes of King’s Grantham, and Harrogate Grammar.
The Midlands have plenty to keep an eye on, Midlands A includes The Perse, The Leys, and St George’s Harpenden, among others. Given that St George’s produced Owen Farrell, George Ford, and Maro Itoje they ought to be exciting. Midlands B is equally decent, Bablake, Trent College, Hereford Cathedral School, King Edward’s Aston, and Old Swinford Hospital all have plenty of talent.
Over in London & South East A look out for London Oratory, Gunnersbury, Gordon’s, and Brockenhurst, among others, while in London & South East B there is real depth, with St George’s College Weybridge, City of London Freemen’s, Worth, Sevenoaks, and St Olave’s in the mix.
South West A is a real chance for some schools to assert themselves, the likes of Wycliffe College, QEH, and Torquay Boys Grammar will all be among those relly pushing. South West B similarly, Cokethorpe, Dr Chaolloner’s, Reading Blue Coat, and perhaps the likes of Desborough College could all entertain.
(Click here for full draw: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/99923581/Charlotte%20H/NSC%20U18%20Vase%20Draw%202016-17.pdf)
Sedbergh won the U15 Cup last year, and they are drawn in the North A section this year, where they will face QES Kirkby Lonsdale. It is a tricky section, with Calday Grange, Wirral Grammar, Stonyhurst, Kirkham Grammar, Lymm High School, RGS Lancaster, Wilmslow High, and King’s Macclesfield just a few of the big names in with a shout.
North B is hardly less competitive, with Durham, Barnard Castle, RGS Newcastle, Ampleforth College, QEGS Wakefield, GSAL, Woodhouse Grove, and Bradford Grammar all in the draw. There is a reason why the U15 competition is often regarded as the best of the lot.
The theme goes on in Midlands A Warwick v Bloxham is huge, while Rugby, Solihull, Denstone College, Oakham, Cheltenham College, and King’s Worcester are a handful of the huge names in schools rugby that could get out of this section.
So too in Midlands B, and how about Oundle v Stamford for a first round tie? Look out too for St Joseph’s College, Felsted, Bedford, Stowe, Uppingham, and Berkhamsted. To name a few.
That quality does not let up as we move to London & South East A, St John’s Leatherhead play KCS Wimbledon, Whitgift face London Oratory, and Epsom College face St Paul’s in three massive clashes. Harrow, St Benedict’s, John Fisher, Hampton, and Reigate Grammar also lurk in this incredibly challenging section of the draw.
You might think that that would mean there are not too many big names left for London & South East B. You would be wrong, there are some huge games, Hurstpierpoint College v Sevenoaks, and Seaford College v Brighton College particularly. Trinity, Dulwich College, and Wimbledon College are among some of the others lurking.
South West A’s pick of the bunch is King’s College Taunton v Millfield, the winners are likely to have the likes of Blundell’s, Beechen Cliff, Sherborne, and Bryanston for company later on.
Last year’s runners up were Wellington College, they sit in South West B where the play Windsor Boys’ School. Also in the section are Marlborough College, RGS High Wycombe, Abingdon, St Peter’s Gloucester, Sir Thomas Rich’s Clifton College, and Colston’s, among others.
(Click here for full draw: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/99923581/Charlotte%20H/NSC%20U15%20Cup%20Draw%202016.17.pdf)
The sheer depth of quality in the U15 Cup leaves the U15 Vase perhaps a little thin, but only a little. There is going to be plenty of excitement. For instance in North A we have he likes of King’s Priory, Bolton School, Rydal Penrhos, and Bishop Heber. North B with Pocklington, Ashville College, Silcoates, and Worksop College, has some of the biggest names on the circuit in the area.
In Midlands A Royal Latin play the notorious Chipping Norton, with King Edward VI Aston and Carre’s Grammar School among the sides to look out for. Midlands B includes the reigning champions, Dr Challoner’s Grammar School, as well as QES Barnet, and St George’s Harpenden.
To London & South East A where Worth, Gunnersbury, Mill Hill and Tiffin could grab a few headlines, as could Skinners’ Gravesend Grammar, and Dover Grammar in London & South East B.
In South West A Mount Kelly could be a force, as could West Buckland, Clevedon, and Frome College. South West B could see stars in the likes of Wycliffe College, Cabot Leatning Foundation, and Tewkesbury.
(Click here for full draw: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/99923581/Charlotte%20H/NSC%20U15%20Vase%20Draw%202016.17.pdf)
Overall the tournaments all have some hugely exciting early games as well as promise of that excitement continuing throughout, and with the new format, it seems likely that almost from the off it will be competitive across the board, which can only be a good thing. No more 50 point walkovers – or if there are, keep an eye out for those teams come the business end of the competitions.