Over the course of the last 30 years, the St Joseph’s Festival has had no shortage of top quality players gracing the turf.
Some went professional, others not, some have long since retired, while others are just at the start of a life in rugby.
At last year’s 30th Anniversary of the Festival, we thought it would be fun to have a look back at some of those players who shone as schools stars at the Festival and who have gone on to a successful career in the professional game.
Millfield have had a number of star players show off their skills at the Festival, from former England captain Chris Robshaw, to Anthony Allen, and Mako Vunipola, a British and Irish Lion, no less. Former England full back Olly Morgan won Player of the Tournament award in 2003, while British and Irish Lions, England, and Bath star Jonathan Joseph won it in 2008. Having won the tournament six times, it should be no surprise that they have a number of top level professional old boys.
More recently they have had a number of players breaking through to edge of their professional 1st XVs, the likes of Tom Ellis at Bath, Callum Sheedy, Try of the Tournament winner Tom Whiteley at Saracens, and 2011 Player of the Tournamant Max Northcote-Green at London Irish.
One of Millfield’s successors as Champions are Cranleigh, 2015 was their first Festival, but they have already had one star progress from the Festival to the professional game, Dino Lamb-Cona, who now plays his rugby at Harlequins.
RGS Newcastle were in a group with both in 2016, and the North-Eastern side have also had their fair share of top players pass through the ranks, including Tom Penny, currently at Newcastle Falcons.
Hampton were the 2015 Festival champions, and one of their star players from last year, Roman Malin-Hiscock, has been training with the England 7s Academy, while former prop Alex Lundberg is at Wasps.
St Peter’s, Gloucester have been attendees at the Festival for a long time, and have provided some top class players too. England winger Charlie Sharples starred in 2006, with Worcester Warriors fly half Ryan Lamb a star at the Festival two years later, while Marcel Garvey, now playing in France, was another back who impressed at the Festival and has gone on to a sterling professional career.
Denstone College saw winger Levi Davis star for England U18 in 2015, along with second row Sam Lewis, who is now with Leicester Tigers.
Brighton College have hit the headlines with one of their most recent graduates, Marcus Smith. Smith won player of the tournament in 2016, is starring for Harlequins, and has even been named in the England training squad. Other alumni includes Harlequins number 8 James Chisholm, who was the U20 World Player of the Year in 2014, as well as his Harlequins teammate Jordan Turner-Hall.
RGS High Wycombe have produced a hatful of top players who have graced this wonderful tournament. Wasps winger Christian Wade played in three tournaments from 2006-2008, winning try of the tournament in 2007. Tom Rees was once tipped to captain England before injury cut his Wasps career short. More tragic was the terrible news of Nick Duncombe’s death at the age of 23. The scrum half was tipped for greatness, and won player of the tournament in 1999. He is not the only scrum half on the RGS production line, England World Cup winner and British and Irish Lions series winner Matt Dawson was also a star for RGS at the Festival.
The tournament has not just seen players go on to honours in the British Isles, RGS High Wycombe’s Tomasso Allen has since gone on to play for Italy after starring for the school from 2009-2011 at the Festival.
Merchiston Castle have had a number of Scotland internationals who have graced the Festival turf, including Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Fraser Brown, while Magnus Bradbury is now captain at Edinburgh. Zach Mercer claimed the Player of the Tournament award in 2014, before going on to help England to the World Rugby U20 Championship in June 2016. Merchiston Castle are far from the only side from outside of England to take part in the Festival, others have included Ireland’s Blackrock College and Wales’ Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf, for whom Jamie Roberts turned out.
Dulwich College won the De La Salle Cup back in 2011, their first trophy on their remarkable run that saw them win three Schools Cups in a row. Josh Ibuanokpe, Beno Obano, and Tommy O’Flaherty have gone on from that side to professional honours with Harlequins, Bath, and the Ospreys respectively. From previous sides Sam Twomey and Tim Swiel have gone on to having excellent careers with Harlequins.
QEGS Wakefield have one of the great records in schools rugby, and the players who have passed through their ranks reflect that. Top of the pile is Mike Tindall, the former England centre and World Cup winner. Tindall represented QEGS from 1995-97, and when he left Ben Woods became the talisman, with the flanker going on to a sterling career at Leicester Tigers. 6 QEGS old boys are currently still actively playing, including Newcastle Falcons’ Andrew Forsyth.
St Joseph’s College have also had a huge number of players go on to professional careers, yet for all the Festival will remain one of their great rugby experiences. Their most recent success in the Festival came in 2013, and five players from that side are currently in professional rugby. Cameron Ives is currently at London Scottish, with Ethan Waddleton part of the England 7s squad, while Tom Emery joined Northampton Saints this summer. Joint players of the tournament that year were Dan Lewis and Lewis Ludlam. Lewis is currently at Bedford with Lewis Ludlam at Northampton Saints, Ludlam also helped England U20 to the final of the 2015 World Rugby U20 Championships.
St Joseph’s also had success in 2010, Alex Day captained that side and won player of the tournament, and went on to success with England U20 and Northampton Saints.
Of course the Festival has seen different schools come and go, the likes of Colston’s, Sedbergh, Bromsgrove, and Stamford have been part of previous sides and have had some tremendous players grace the turf.
Perhaps the most notable at the time was Bromsgrove’s Andy Goode, who won Player of the Tournament in 1997 before going on to great success with Leicester Tigers, Saracens, Wasps, Newcastle Falcons, Worcester Warriors, and England, while James Simpson-Daniel starred for Sedbegh at the turn of the century.
There have been others too, including a Colston’s contingent that included the likes of Jordan Crane, Tom Varndell, Lee Mears, and Olly Barkley. At one stage or another the likes of Wellington College, Oakham, and Campion have all entered, all of course winners of the Schools Cup, and fielded, among others, players such as James Haskell, Tom Croft, and Tony Diprose.
The list of players to have played at the Festival is truly astonishing, and this year we can expect another group of young and talented players to take to the field, and in another thirty years it might be their names that adorn these pages and grace our television screens as stars of the rugby world.
St Joseph’s Festival 30 year Anniversary Fantasy XV
15 Olly Morgan (Millfield)
14 James Simpson-Daniel (Sedbergh)
13 Jonathan Joseph (Millfield, Player of the Tournament 2008)
12 Mike Tindall (QEGS Wakefield)
11 Christian Wade (RGS High Wycombe, Try of the Tournament 2007)
10 Andy Goode (Bromsgrove, Player of the Tournament 1997)
9 Matt Dawson (RGS High Wycombe)
1 Mako Vunipola (Millfield)
2 Lee Mears (Colston’s)
3 Henry Thomas (Millfield)
4 Tom Croft (Oakham)
5 Sam Twomey (Dulwich College)
6 Chris Robshaw (Millfield)
7 Tom Rees (RGS High Wycombe)
8 Tony Diprose (Campion)
16 Fraser Brown (Merchiston Castle)
17 Rob Vickers (QEGS Wakefield)
18 Dan Murphy (St Joseph’s College)
19 Huw Taylor (Old Swinford Hospital)
20 James Haskell (Wellington College)
21 Nick Duncombe (RGS High Wycombe, Player of the Tournament 1999)
22 Marcus Smith (Brighton College, Player of the Tournament 2016)
23 Jamie Roberts (Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf)