The entrants for the 2021 ACE League have been confirmed, with thirteen of the fourteen regional academies represented.
Previously known as the AASE League, the ACE League has fourteen entrants (Exeter Chiefs have two affiliated ACE Colleges), split into seven groups of four.
Harlequins enter the ACE League for the first time, linking up with their new affiliate partner Gordon’s School. However Northampton Saints will not be represented in the league in 2021, with Moulton College leaving the competition. However with the likes of Northampton School for Boys and Samuel Whitbread Academy in the state sector proving so valuable to Northampton Saints at the moment, it would be no surprise to see moves made in that direction in the future.
The 2020 ACE League was cancelled due to Covid, so their reigning champions are the 2019 winners, St Paul’s Catholic College. However London Irish have changed the ACE affiliate school, meaning that St Paul’s will not be in the League, London Irish will instead be represented by The Bishop Wand School, just a stone’s throw from London Irish’s Hazelwood training complex.
They will be in the South Pool along with the 2019 beaten finalists Beechen Cliff (Bath). Gordon’s are also in the South pool and it is a real baptism for fire for the two newcomers, Gordon’s and Bishop Wand, with the 2016 champions Exeter College (Exeter Chiefs) and the legendary Hartpury College (Gloucester) also in the pool, Hartpury College have won all but two of the AASE/ACE titles in history.
Completing the pool are Exeter Chiefs’ other affiliate side, Truro & Penwith College, who produced Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie, and Bristol Bears’ ACE side, SGS Filton College.
Over in the North Pool, Brooksby Melton College will again be the Leicester Tigers affiliates, and are likely to be a strong outfit, such have been the performances of the Tigers academy in recent times.
Joining them are the fast and exciting Gosforth Academy (Newcastle Falcons), and Sale Sharks’ Myerscough College. Look out too for Bishop Burton College, representing the Yorkshire Regional Academy, which is now under the control of the RFU.
Completing the North Pool are Worcester Warriors’ Stourport High School, Saracens’ Oaklands College, and Wasps City of Oxford College, for whom 2019 was their debut season.
The schedule and fixtures are yet to be formalised, but if the league follows the pattern of previous seasons, expect each side to play the others in their pool once before the pools split top/bottom for the second half of the season. From there play off places will be decided, with the final likely in the first week of December.
ACE League Pools (Affiliated Club in Brackets):
|North Pool||South Pool|
|Beechen Cliff (Bath)||Bishop Burton College (Yorkshire)|
|Exeter College (Exeter Cheiefs)||Brooksby Melton College (Leicester Tigers)|
|Gordon’s (Harlequins)||City of Oxford College (Wasps)|
|Hartpury College (Gloucester)||Gosforth Academy (Newcastle Falcons)|
|SGS Filton College (Bristol Bears)||Myerscough College (Sale Sharks)|
|The Bishop Wand School (London Irish)||Oaklands College (Saracens)|
|Truro & Penwith College (Exeter Chiefs)||Stourport High (Worcester Warriors)|