Among the great beauties of schools rugby are the rivalries that exist county to county and region to region. These are rivalries built up over decades and decades, in some cases well over a century.
It gives us some of the great fixtures in the school game and without fail each week we highlight some of these old and passionate rivalries and they rarely fail to deliver.
These are rivalries felt though the whole school, not just the 1st XV, the whole block of fixtures comes with extra spice and these consistent year on year block fixtures are the foundation of the school game.
The down side of all of that, of course, is that that means we often do not get to see sides compete with teams from outside their usual traveling region too often.
That has always made the tricky business of establishing how a school is performing relative to other schools from further afield a near impossibility. How can one know if Hampton would beat Woodhouse Grove if they never play each other and have few common opponents?
Perhaps it is a part of why ranking teams is not particularly in vogue at the moment, despite so many of those connected to each school being so curious about that very subject, it simply is not reflective or accurate enough.
With that in mind we are bringing you a new table each week, using subjective criteria alongside the hard data of results, to accurately reflect the standings in the school game.
With a committee behind it debating where they feel each side ought to lie, the table will be based using similar logic to the College Football table in the USA – in essence, just because you lost to a good team does not mean you are worse than someone who has not lost just because they have not played a tougher team yet.
The idea is to give each side a fair reflection of their standings, and indeed to generate debate, and with greater debate comes more information, comes a more accurate feeling table.
Of course schools rugby is not all about the 1st XV nor is it just about Xs and Os, in some schools there are well in excess of ten teams and in all schools the aim of the game is developing the people and the players and their skills. With that in mind, as more teams sign up a similar process will take place for the entire block and for more creative aspects such as offloads, attacking kicks, and the like.
In this first week the table is naturally a little unbalanced, partly in the interests of fairness. We have taken the decision that with, in most cases, just one game undertaken that only the Top 50 are shown and only those with a win are included, as it would be unfair on those with wins to start trying to rate teams without a win relative to them. This sees the likes of Whitgift, who were seconds away from a draw with our second placed team, Sedbergh, not on the table yet but safe in the knowledge that when that first win arrives they will likely shoot up as such a performance against Sedbergh likely marks them out as a top side.
Being the first game of the season, the table is based on performance relative to expectation at this point, weighing up how each side did against their week 1 opponent last year at both 1st XV and Colts level, making an educated prediction as to the result, and then weighing up the actual result relative to that. This sees Norwich School place high in the table after beating Felsted despite losing heavily at U18 and U16 levels last year.
As the season develops the table will naturally become based on the current season as there will be evidence on hand with which to judge. For instance a win for Dulwich College over Epsom College this weekend would see them climb rapidly.
Working in partnership with CheersMate Productions the new table and subsequent more specialised tables and block table will enable live streaming and highlights for those that sign up as we look to create a new and exciting take on schools rugby – using this subjective based table to create a framework from which to be able to highlight the exceptional work being done up and down the country with regard to player development and the brilliant brand of attacking rugby that we are now starting to see at almost every game. The more it is highlighted the more it will spread.