The 2020 St Joseph’s Festival has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Originally planned for the weekend of the 17th and 18th October, the Festival has been pushed back to the weekend of the 13th and 14th February 2021, the first weekend of half term.
The date has been sanctioned by the RFU, and could perhaps be the first signal of a shift in the schools rugby season for 2020/21, one that could perhaps see the season start either half term in October or perhaps even as late as after Christmas, though at this point that is nothing more than speculation on our part.
The postponement of the Festival is a great loss though, the flagship competition of the opening half term of each season that has produced countless memorable moments, not least a superb tournament last year that saw two newcomers, Wellington College and Kirkham Grammar School, meet in the final. Wellington College took the victory, a victory that set them up for an historic double later in the year when they won the Champions Trophy.
This year both sides were set to return twelve others sides that were in the sixteen team competition in 2019. Joining new for the year were Truro School and a side with plenty of short-form schools rugby history and expectation behind them, Cheltenham College. They replaced St Peter’s York and former Festival winners, John Fisher.
At this stage all 16 of the original 2020 entrants are expected to attend, although clearly at this point much of the season ahead is still up in the air.
Nevertheless, while the postponement comes as a blow to the schools rugby fraternity, the presence in the calendar of a fixed date at which to expect to see some schools rugby action is definitely a huge positive.
However the sadness that this would appear to hint on there being little competitive rugby up until at least that point beyond mid-October is a hammer blow, albeit an expected one. Undoubtedly, though, it is the correct decision. With another three stages to go on the RFU’s own return to play programme, the likelihood of there being rugby as we know it at school level by the time of the original date was slim at best.
So while the season remains uncertain, what we can say for sure is that the 13th-14th February 2021 is going to be an epic weekend of schools rugby and a St Joseph’s Festival that is going to have twice the excitement and anticipation as normal.
We can’t wait!
2020 St Joseph’s Festival Entrants:
RGS High Wycombe
St Joseph’s College
Whitchurch High School