We are less than a week away from the start of the season, with some schools starting their official seasons as early as Wednesday next week.
There are also plenty of pre season friendlies and some pre season tournaments coming up too.
The season is all set to be an exciting one, and there are a number of changes that ought to make the whole school season feel much more streamlined and sensible.
The star among those changes is that the HSBC Rosslyn Park National School 7s and the NatWest Schools Cup Finals will no longer clash! Rosslyn Park will take place between Monday 20th and Friday 24th March 2017, with the NatWest Schools Cup finals taking place on Tuesday 28th March and Wednesday 29th March 2017.
All of which means good news for our readers, as we will be able to cover both tournaments in far greater detail without having to dart between the two venues, so well done to the organizers of both competitions!
The NatWest Cup has seen plenty of changes in structure too. The Champions Trophy has been absorbed into the NatWest Cup, and will sit as the top ‘tier’ of that competition (its final is still in November). The Cup/Vase split is also changed, teams have already entered the Cup or the Vase rather than having to wait until after the first round as in the past. That leaves room for two new competitions, the Plate and the Bowl.
Losers of the Cup 1st round will drop to the Plate, with losers of the Vase first round dropping to the Bowl. The same is repeated at U15 level, though without the addition of the Champions Trophy. So the structure for U18 and U15 looks something like this:
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)
Of course long before we get to that stage we have the start of the season, and what a start it should be. For most schools the season starts on Saturday 10th September, though a few start as early as Wednesday, and there are plenty of top pre-season tournaments such as the Tynedale Festival and the Esher President’s Cup coming up next weekend.
To give you a flavour of some of the early season highlights, we have picked out a few key early season fixtures from some of last year’s biggest successes.
Bedford won the Champions Trophy last year, and went undefeated, they face a Bromsgrove side on Saturday 17th September who have won back to back NatWest Schools Cups. Bedford will warm up for that against Uppingham the week before, while Bromsgrove will be away against a Warwick side who are likely to be hot on their heels this year after a great few years of U15 success.
Bromsgrove also meet Canford in a pre season friendly on Wednesday, a day that also sees 2015 St Joseph’s Festival Champions Hampton face Oakham. Ahead of Hampton’s title defence at St Jo’s, they kick off their season for real away at John Fisher on the 10th September.
RGS High Wycombe faced Hampton in that final and have a pre season game against Solihull on Wednesday before a supremely tough start to the season proper on Saturday 3rd September as they travel to Daily Mail Trophy Champions Wellington College before hosting Stowe and then travelling to the mighty Millfield.
Wellington themselves also face Millfield early on, on the 1st October, but face Dulwich, in a game that is the triple Schools Cup champions’ first, Tonbridge, and Whitgift between the RGS and Millfield fixtures. Of anyone, Wellington surely have the toughest start to the season.
Millfield themselves kick off against Canford, before finishing the year against Sedbergh in December, Sedbergh kick off their season with a big away trip to Whitgift.
Berkhamsted could well be in the mix this year after an unbeaten Colts season last year, they open their account away at Abingdon on the 10th September, QEGS Wakefield also had good junior success last year, and a run to the U18 NatWest Cup final, and kick off against RGS Lancaster away on the same day.
Stamford still maintain an unbeaten home run that stretches all the way to 7th November 2010, they will be tested early on though with two home games in succession against local rivals Oundle and Oakham ahead of a trip to Stowe.
Before all of that though, they too are a part of next week’s exciting midweek pre-season fixtures when they travel to Durham on Wednesday, where along with the Hampton v Oakham, RGS High Wycombe v Solihull, and Bromsgrove v Canford fixtures already mention, City of London Freemen’s will host St Dunstan’s and Sir Thomas Rich’s will host Seaford College.
Meanwhile the AASE league also starts on Wednesday, but we will preview that separately on Monday, while on Thursday Clifton College host Lord Wandsworth College and Lymm High host Cokethorpe, with Monmouth on tour in Ireland against Blackrock College. Then on Friday Marlborough College play Magdalen College.
It is all set to be a great season, and we cannot wait to get stuck into it. Don’t forget that before the season and throughout it you can get in touch with us at any time with any content or suggestions that you would like to see on the website. If you have match reports, previews, or comment pieces that you would like to see published, as well as any photos and videos, then please do email email@example.com or get in touch via Twitter and Facebook at any time.
Enjoy the season, we can’t wait!
Next week’s midweek fixtures:
Wednesday 31st August
Bromsgrove v Canford (14.30)
City of London Freemen’s v St Dunstan’s (14.30)
Durham v Stamford (11.00)
Hampton v Oakham (13.00)
RGS High Wycombe v Solihull (12.00)
Sir Thomas Rich’s v Seaford College (11.30)
(Plus AASE 1st Round)
Thursday 1st September
Blackrock College v Monmouth (14.30)
Clifton College v Lord Wandsworth’s College (15.00)
Lymm High School v Cokethorpe (16.00)
Friday 2nd September
Marlborough College v Magdalen College (14.00 – DMT)