Saturday marks the official start of the season for a handful of schools, while for the majority it is the final act of a busy pre season.
That means that this weekend is peppered with pre-season festivals, with tournaments such as the South Coast Kings as KES Southampton, the Tynedale Festival in the north east, and the huge King’s Macclesfield pre-season festival, the preview for which you can see here: 20 schools flock to King’s Macclesfield.
Let us begin with those big competitive early season games though, and there is perhaps none bigger than Wellington College v RGS High Wycombe even if technically it is a pre-season game, because you can be sure the players will treat it as anything but. These are two schools with about as much history in the school game as anyone.
Wellington are the reigning Daily Mail Trophy champions and will be favourites, but particularly at this time of the season, anything can happen and RGS High Wycombe are always one of the strongest sides around and are never endingly difficult to beat. It should be a great game of rugby.
As should Rugby v St Paul’s. These are two of the oldest rugby playing schools in the country and Saturday’s game ought to be a brilliant one. Rugby last year enjoyed an unbeaten season in their 450th anniversary year, earing Simon Brown the Coach of the Year title at the National Rugby Awards, while St Paul’s also enjoyed a successful campaign, and almost toppled Bedford, who were reigning champions and reached the final again last year, in the Champions Trophy.
Felsted reached last year’s NatWest Cup semi finals and enjoyed a superb season overall, they open their account this year at home to Dulwich College on Saturday, in what should be a fantastic game of rugby. Another that is technically a pre-season game, but will almost certainly be far from that.
Like Dulwich, Bromsgrove have had plenty of NatWest Cup success in recent years, and while they fell at the same stage as Felsted last year, they will hope to go even better this year. They open their season against KES Stratford, a game that they ought to win, but it will be far from easy, particularly given the coaching structure that KES have been putting in place.
Rugby north of the border kicks off with a monster of a game between Merchiston Castle and Dollar Academy, both of whom have plenty of games against English opposition this year, particularly Merchiston, who will be at the St Joseph’s Festival.
With cross-border clashes in mind, keep and eye out for RGS Newcastle v George Watson’s College and Sedbergh v Stewart’s Melville, two of the biggest names in English schools rugby hosting two of the biggest names in Scottish schools rugby.
Marlborough College, who are under a new coaching regime, host Colston’s, with Monkton Combe making the trip to West Buckland.
There should be some great rugby in the Nottingham High School v King’s Grantham fixture, while down in London Colfe’s open their account against a Chislehurst and Sidcup side who enjoyed a decent year last year.
On Sunday the fixtures keep coming, with Uppingham, now under the stewardship of former Scotland centre Nick De Luca and former Ireland wing Tyrone Howe, travelling to Loughborough Grammar.
Of course the bulk of the action over the weekend will take place at the big pre-season tournaments. As mentioned, King’s Macclesfield host a 20 team tournament that includes the likes of Kirkham Grammar and QEGS Wakefield, while the Tynedale Festival attracts Durham and many more.
The likes of Bedford and Bishop Wordsworth’s are heading to KES Southampton for the South Coast Kings Festival, while there are also tournaments at Brentwood, Gresham’s, KCS Wimbledon, and KES Birmingham.
Kingswood host, among others, Sir Thomas Rich’s, while Merchant Taylors’ will attract the likes of St John’s Leatherhead, Haileybury, and, fresh from their South Africa tour, Hayes.
RGS Guildford’s tournament sees Tonbridge and Reigate Grammar among the heavyweight sides to make the trip, while St Albans, Stockport Grammar, Wellingborough, and Wisbech Grammar all also host sides.
It should all prove to be an exciting and informative final weekend of pre-season rugby, giving us all plenty of insight as to which schools will be among the runners and riders when the season truly gets underway.
As always, if you have any videos, photos, or reports from the weekend’s rugby, please feel free to send them in via Twitter (@FifteenRugbyXV), Facebook (www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby), Instagram(@fifteenrugbyxv), or through email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bromsgrove v KES Stratford
Colfe’s v Chislehurst & Sidcup GS
Felsted v Dulwich College
Marlborough College v Colston’s
Merchiston Castle v Dollar Academy
Nottingham HS v King’s Grantham
RGS Newcastle v George Watson’s
Rugby v St Paul’s
Sedbergh v Stewart’s Melville
Wellington College v RGS High Wycombe
West Buckland v Monkton Combe
Loughborough v Uppingham
South Coast King’s (KES Southampton)
Wisbech Grammar School