Last weekend saw the first ‘full’ set of school rugby fixtures in England since December 2019. This weekend things step up a notch, gone (in almost all cases) is any notion of pre-season, now we are into the main season and the first block of competitive fixtures across the board since those heady pre-covid days.
It is going to be a huge day, emotional in many ways, pulling on that school shirt is always special but after so long without a competitive game it will be doubly so. Doubtless there will be chat in changing rooms about wearing it for those that never got the chance last year, of doing them proud as well as yourselves. That means something and is going to add to what will already be an incredibly proud weekend for players, staff, and parents.
As the season goes on we will start adding predictions to these weekly previews, however with no rugby over the last 18 months and therefore no basis on which to make predictions, plus the fact that it feels right for 100% of the focus to be on the sheer joy of having rugby back in this opening period, there are no predictions this week.
Ten to Watch
Each week we will be picking out ten games that we tight ought to be particularly interesting, close, or important in the narrative of the season, derby games will often find their way into this section too. Do not worry if your team is not in the Ten to Watch, though, we will be looking at all the other games later in the piece.
Bedford v Oundle – Saturday
A really interesting one to kick things off, in our opinion. Both sides had a couple of lean years pre-covid and in the post-Fraser Dingwall era for Bedford and post-Ben/Tom Curry era for Oundle. Curiosity, then, is high about how both might fare this year and there is huge excitement among both at the prospect of being back playing – and of making use of two of the most glorious 1st XV grounds in the country. Bedford were impressive at the Norwich pre-season Festival last week, and Oundle will be determined to match that. It ought to be fascinating.
Bradford Grammar v Ampleforth College – Saturday
A massive Yorkshire derby between two of the most famous rugby schools in the region. Social media has been alight with content from both schools with their players thriving in the sunshine and revelling at the enjoyment of being back on the pitch again. Saturday feels completely unpredictable, but what is predictable is that it will be massive and both sets of players are going to be arriving with huge excitement at the prospect of getting back to competitive rugby. If you are in the area, it’s not to be missed.
Cranleigh v Brighton College – Saturday
Around 2016 and 2017 this became one of the great rivalries in schoolboy rugby as the two sides consistently found themselves against at the sharp end of some of the most prestigious events on the calendar, such as Rosslyn Park 7s and the St Joseph’s Festival. They haven’t actually met in a fifteen-a-side game since September 2018, so three years on the excitement for this one is huge – and what a fitting game to be the official opener for both. Each side likes to play fast and exciting rugby and have more often than not been right at the top end of the game over the last year, Saturday should give us some big clues about where they stand this year.
Felsted v Haileybury – Saturday
This game is always a fun game, both sides have been knocking hard at the door of the very top steps of schoolboy rugby for years now and as such are producing some fantastic rugby. Throw into the mix the fact that both sets of players know each other well thanks to the Saracens links, and you have a recipe for a fun game of rugby. Haileybury were unfortunate last week that covid got in the way of their game v Wellington College, while Felsted enjoyed a strong run out against Dulwich College, a game where everyone that attended pre-season had a solid run out. In the rare moments of roughly 1st XV v 1st XV, Felsted looked a strong unit indeed. More than anything, though, this ought to be a seriously fun game of rugby to watch.
Oakham v Rugby – Saturday
Two giants of school rugby going head to head is always cause for excitement, Oakham were one of the most successful sides around in the first decade of this century, and have recently been providing scores of players to Leicester Tigers and the England age-grades side. Rugby School are, of course, the founders of the game and in the last 4 or 5 years have moved right back to the upper echelons of the game, producing a number of professional players and reaching the final of the 2019 Champions Trophy, their last competitive 1st XV game. That should make for an exciting game on Saturday, certainly here at NextGenXV it is one that we are incredibly excited about.
Radley College v Marlborough College – Saturday
Two schools with a rich rugby pedigree and huge reputations off the field. Marlborough College this year make the trip up to Oxford from Wiltshire and do so with a bit of a spring in their step after a positive pre-season and a team that looks as though it could be a strong one under the guidance of Terry Gilmour. Radley are also looking good though, and Saturday’s setting should be fantastic – recent photos of their 1st XV Bigside pitch have it looking utterly pristine. Former Gloucester prop Nick Wood is running the show at Radley now, and they had been building well under him pre-covid. It’s a classic schools rugby fixture, hopefully a classic game, and if you are there do take the chance to head into the pavilion and take a look at the picture of some of the oldest 1st XV kits from schools across the country.
RGS Newcastle v St Peter’s, York – Saturday
A big fixture to kick the season off with in the north east between two sides that have been battling at the sharp end in recent years. RGS Newcastle were in pre-season action against George Watson’s College last week, they lost out but the game will definitely have sharpened them up ahead of this massive game on Saturday. St Peter’s look to have been enjoying some good fun in pre-season and must be feeling buoyed to be back out there, particularly in light of their strong pre-covid seasons. Hopefully both will be up near the top end again this year, and if they are, Saturday could be an epic game to kick things off with.
Stowe v Stamford – Saturday
A completely fascinating game. In the early part of the 2010s Stowe were a true powerhouse in the game and the feeling is that at some point they surely will be again. Could this year be the year? There is no reason why not and Saturday represents a huge chance to start that journey, but far more importantly to run out at one of the most incredible settings of any 1st XV in the country and feel the pride in wearing that famous shirt. Stamford will present a real test, they were one of the most unlucky sides through covid in that with one of their very best ever yeargroups missing out on the chance to play, the Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints academies are littered with recent Stamford leavers. Bablake game them a bit of a pre-season surprise last week, but Stamford will quickly bounce back and thrive in being back to competitive rugby again.
Tonbridge v St John’s, Leatherhead – Saturday
From the moment that Tonbridge kicked off against Whitgift in the Esher President’s Cup and looked utterly determined, we have been excited about them. That they then beat Whitgift and then last week performed strongly against both Seaford College and Trinity, who reached the final at Esher, has only ramped that excitement up. That was all pre-season, though. Now the serious stuff begins and St John’s Leatherhead are no easy visitor on Saturday. St John’s have been fantastic in the pre-covid years and the current 1st XV will have been inspired by some of the feats of those sides. Both sides will aim for an exciting style, and if St John’s do the business then, in our view, that makes them a very good side, because Tonbridge have, so far, looked like a team to watch.
Wellington College v Northampton School for Boys – Saturday
This is such a great fixture, one of the very best independent schools, year on year, hosting one of the very best state schools, year on year, you would bet your house on both being right up there against this year. Wellington College have had a shift, from a side pre-covid where their pack was probably their biggest strength, they now have a side where the backline is probably the biggest strength – they are going to be fun to watch. They were due to play Haileybury last week but it was forced to be cancelled, making this the big season kick off for them, and it will not be an easy one, Northampton School for Boys showed last week that the quality that took them to the Schools Cup semi finals in March 2020 remains, beating Denstone College on the road – a feat few manage. Whatever happens on Saturday, these are going to be two teams to keep a really close eye on over the course of the season.
There is a fairly busy schedule on Friday, with fixtures around the country. Perhaps the biggest of the lot will be Clifton College v Sir Thomas Rich’s, two schools with massive recent histories, Tommies serving the Gloucester academy incredibly well and likewise Clifton College with Bristol Bears. Both are expected to be strong again this year, making Saturday a fun looking fixture. Up in Gloucester, Pate’s Grammar travel to take on a Hartpury College side in a game that should be a real challenge for Pate’s and an important one for Hartpury’s players as they build a case for ACE side inclusion.
In the North West Calday Grange Grammar take on Merchant Taylors’ and it’s a match up that recent pasts suggests should make for a brilliant game of rugby. In Ealing, St Benedict’s host London Oratory after a busy pre-season. London Oratory will need to be sharp in facing such a well practiced opponent, but it should be a good game.
There are also a number of games on Friday between school side and club sides, one of the biggest being St Edward’s Oxford’s trip to Oxford Harlequins in their final pre-season game. Meanwhile Wisbech Grammar travel to Shelford RFC and Wells Cathedral School head to Wells Rugby Club.
The anticipation ahead of Saturday is absolutely massive, a full set of fixtures – a sight that had started to feel almost unbelievable at certain points in the last 18 months. Some may well fall to covid yet, and indeed some already have, but by and large there will be a full and competitive weekend of school rugby. Heady days indeed.
Among that will be a few Festivals and Triangulars, chief among them a brilliant looking day at Abindgon, where local rivals St Edward’s will be in attendance alongside Hampton and RGS High Wycombe. Among those four you would expect at least two to be hugely competitive this season, and maybe all four.
Canford host a strong Triangular, where the usually impressive Sherborne will be in attendance alongside local club Wimbourne RFC. Exeter School are also hosting, welcoming Mount Kelly and West Buckland. However arguably the toughest of all will be at Warwick, where they will host both Bromsgrove and Cheltenham College, all three sides could well be scrapping right at the very top of the school game this year.
Barnard Castle are another side that could well be in the hunt for a really strong season, they begin their campaign at home on Saturday against a Hymers College side that has looked strong in pre-season. Not far down the round, Newcastle School for Boys, a side that really impressed in the pre-covid season, are heading to Austin Friars for their annual game.
The whole of the northern section of the country has some cracking fixtures really, Stonyhurst College travelling to AKS Lytham, Ashville College welcoming Hill House, and Birkenhead at home to Newcastle-Under-Lyme among them, one of the biggest will actually just be a pre-season game though as QEGS Wakefield take on Woodhouse Grove, a clash of two of the most prestigious rugby schools not just in Yorkshire, nor the north, but the whole country.
That is just one of a few monster clashes in the region, Lancaster RGS travelling to King’s Macclesfield really whets the appetite, particularly coming off the back of King’s Macclesfield’s Festival last week. Manchester Grammar host Stockport Grammar and Cheadle Hulme head to St Anselm’s College, while two sides that have produced some brilliant teams down the years, Lymm High and Sandbach, go head to head.
Kirkham Grammar School have consistently proved themselves among the best teams in the country over the last decade, their bid to continue that legacy begins at home on Saturday against Wirral Grammar School, who seem to be really building something special. Another good side through the last decade, Wilmslow High, welcome Altrincham Grammar, while Yarm and Durham go head to head in a pre-season game in the North East.
The South West looks set to have a brilliant weekend of rugby, and among the home teams are a side that we are particularly looking forward to seeing this year, Colston’s, they have been building and enjoyed their best year in 2019 since their glory years nearly 20 years before. On Saturday they welcome RGS Worcester, who will provide a strong test. Fellow Bristol Bears catchment side Bristol Grammar host KES Bath in what should be a top game, while in Somerset Dean Close, who have been magnificent in the last few years, are at King’s College Taunton.
Bishop Wordsworth’s are always a fantastic watch and have been really strong in recent years. They kick off their campaign against Reading Blue Coat on Saturday, a side that will be itching to get back out there. Elsewhere in the South West Dauntsey’s welcome King’s Bruton, while Kingswood v Taunton School looks as though it should be very competitive, so too Wycliffe College v Hereford Cathedral School. There are also a couple of remaining pre-season games in the area as Prior Park College host Monkton Combe and QEH welcome Wellington School.
Up in the West Midlands there are some crackers, perhaps none more so on paper than Solihull v Denstone College, Denstone have been serious competitors for a while, and Solihull were looking good in pre-season. Their 1st XV pitch is also looking spectacular at the moment. King’s Worcester v St Peter’s Gloucester is a great matchup between two sides that have, at one time or another, been right up at the top end of the game. Could either be again this year? This match will tell us a lot.
Malvern College’s year started with plenty of excitement as they hosted they academies festival in the summer, now they kick off their campaign full of hope at home to Bloxham, who have had some fantastic teams over the last few years. Back in the Birmingham area, KES Birmingham take on Princethorpe College, while in a game that could be absolutely brilliant, Monmouth travel to Old Swinford Hospital, the former Schools Cup finalists.
In Oxfordshire Magdalen College host Gordon’s, who will earn great respect for fielding a school side as well as an ACE side this year, while up in the more easterly midlands, Trent College welcome Nottingham High, a game that should be superb. Ratcliffe College, meanwhile, head to Loughborough Grammar and keep a eye on Wellingborough, superb last week and superb in midweek, they will look to build on that early momentum at home to Leicester Grammar, which will be no easy game.
In East Anglia Gresham’s v Framlingham College is one to watch, so too New Hall v Culford, two sides that have produced some really good teams recently. One game particularly resembles one of the great football derbies, Norwich City v Ipswich Town, as Norwich School welcome Ipswich’s Royal Hospital School. RHS’ local rivals St Joseph’s College begin preparations that will lead to their annual Festival in mid-October with a trip to RGS Colchester on Saturday.
Cambridge sees a cracking looking fixture as The Perse welcome Uppingham School, a side who were on the cusp of fighting back at the higher end pre-covid and will be hoping to pick up where they left off. Along the road The Leys host Bishop’s Stortford High School, while BSHS’ local rivals Bishop’s Stortford Collegeare at home in Hertfordshire to St Edmund’s College.
Elsewhere in the area Haberdashers’ welcome St Columba’s College and Mill Hill host QES Barnet, while on that looks particularly exciting sees a St Albans side, who seem to be really developing year on year, host Bedford Modern who made the news this week with another high profile coaching announcement.
Moving towards the South and South East, the big games just keep on coming. KCS Wimbledon v Reed’s already looks exciting and should be a cracking game. Both sets of players have been full of enthusiasm ahead of this one on social media as the long awaited return to competitive rugby comes to a close. Staying in London Campion make the trip from East to West to take on one of the oldest rugby schools in the country, St Paul’s, a game that should be fascinating, while Tiffin welcome Wallington County Grammar, and Langley Park hosts Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar.
Eltham College are at home to Judd, Eltham have had some good sides of late and will be hoping for ever more. Meanwhile Ravens Wood, who have had some great players in Saracens colours recently, welcomeSkinners’ and Cobham International School head to Latymer Upper. Cardinal Vaughan, meanwhile, complete pre-season against Gunnersbury, while St Ignatius College look to bounce back after a tough opener last week as they travel to Fulham Boys.
The South West of London and into Surrey sees some crackers, not least Epsom College’s trip to RGS Guildford, Epsom were among those who really pushed to give boys a chance in the May window and will be hoping that starts to reap rewards this year. Epsom’s near rivals Glyn, are at home to City of London Freemen’s.
St George’s Weybridge are, meanwhile, at home to Pangbourne College, and back up towards where Pangbourne have come from are two great looking fixtures. Eton College host John Fisher, in one of the great fixtures every year – the most famous of public schools up against arguably the premier rugby state school of the last 20 years. Along the road in Reading, The Oratory host Shiplake College, two sides that absolutely love their rugby and throw in enthusiasm to the absolute maximum. It should be utterly fantastic spectacle.
One of the biggest games in the South East is going to be Harrow’s trip to Hurstpierpoint College. Harrow ought to have a very good team this year, indeed when do they not, but Hurstpierpoint is a tough place to go and are a group with plenty of ambition themselves. Elsewhere Dartford Grammar are in action at Coopers’ Coborn, with Cranbrook welcoming St Olave’s Grammar. King’s Canterbury meanwhile look to build on last week’s triangular on their trip to Duke of York’s Royal Military School.
On the South Coast Portsmouth Grammar v Lord Wandsworth College should prove to be an exciting and even contest. Reigate Grammar start their campaign at home to St Dunstan’s College, with Maidstone Grammar welcoming Gravesend Grammar. Look out too for Sevenoaks v Caterham, two schools that with a fair wind always have the chance of putting together a strong side and a solid season.
Scotland’s season is well into its stride now, and there are some absolutely cracking games this weekend, not least two giants of the school game going head to head in the form of Dollar Academy v Merchiston Castle, how that game pans out should give us plenty of clues as to the season ahead.
Elsewhere George Watson’s College take on Dundee High School, while GWC’s 2nd XV are in action at Kelvinside Academy. Another giant, Stewart’s Melville, make the trip to Glasgow Academy, while local rivals Glasgow High welcome George Herit’s and St Aloysius’ College host Glenalmond College.
Strathallan are on the road at Balfron High, while Hutchesons’ Grammar, fresh off a great week last week, are at home to Jordanhill. Meanwhile Lomond School head to Morrison’s Academy, while Robert Gordon’s College are in club action as they host Deeside RFC.
Sunday was supposed to see one of the early games of the season, with Whitgift due to head up to Sedbergh for a midday kick off, however Covid put paid to that plan. One game is happening though, with Eastbourne College getting their final prep in for the season at home to club side Havant and Waterlooville RFC.
If you have any photos, video, reports, or any other content from the weekend’s school rugby then please do send it in via our social media channels or firstname.lastname@example.org and if you are interested in us live streaming one of your games or an event then please do get in touch!
School Rugby Fixtures – Friday 10th September to Sunday 12th September
Friday 10th September
Calday Grange Grammar v Merchant Taylors’, Crosby
Clifton College v Sir Thomas Rich’s
Hartpury College v Pate’s Grammar
Oxford Harlequins v St Edward’s, Oxford (Pre-Season)
Shelford RFC v Wisbech Grammar
St Benedict’s v London Oratory
Wells RFC v Wells Cathedral
Saturday 11th September
Abingdon Festival: Abingdon, Hampton, RGS High Wycombe, St Edward’s Oxford (Pre-Season)
AKS Lytham v Stonyhurst College
Ashville College v Hill House
Austin Friars v Newcastle School for Boys
Balfron High v Strathallan
Barnard Castle v Hymers College
Bedford v Oundle
Birkenhead v Newcastle-Under-Lyme
Bishop Wordsworth’s v Reading Blue Coat
Bishop’s Stortford College v St Edmund’s College, Ware
Bradford Grammar v Ampleforth College
Bristol Grammar v KES Bath
Canford Triangular: Canford, Sherborne, Wimborne RFC
Cardinal Vaughan v Gunnersbury (Friendly)
Colston’s v RGS Worcester
Coopers’ Coborn v Dartford Grammar
Cranbrook v St Olave’s Grammar
Cranleigh v Brighton College
Dauntsey’s v King’s Bruton
Dollar Academy v Merchiston Castle
Duke of York’s Royal Military School v King’s Canterbury
Eltham College v Judd
Eton College v John Fisher
Exeter Triangular: Exeter School, Mount Kelly, West Buckland
Felsted v Haileybury
Fulham Boys v St Ignatius College
George Watson’s College v Dundee High School
Glasgow Academy v Stewart’s Melville
Glasgow High School v George Heriot’s
Glyn v City of London Freemen’s
Gresham’s v Framlingham College
Haberdashers’ v St Columba’s College (Pre-Season)
Hurstpierpoint College v Harrow
Hutchesons’ Grammar v Jordanhill
KCS Wimbledon v Reed’s
Kelvinside Academy v George Watson’s College 2nd XV
KES Birmingham v Princethorpe College
King’s College, Taunton v Dean Close
King’s Macclesfield v Lancaster RGS
King’s Worcester v St Peter’s, Gloucester
Kingswood v Taunton
Kirkham Grammar v Wirral Grammar
Langley Park v Chislehurst & Sidcup
Latymer Upper v ACS Cobham International
Loughborough Grammar v Ratcliffe College
Lymm High v Sandbach
Magdalen College v Gordon’s
Maidstone Grammar v Gravesend Grammar
Malvern College v Bloxham
Manchester Grammar v Stockport Grammar
Mill Hill v QES Barnet
Morrison’s Academy v Lomond School
New Hall v Culford
Norwich v Royal Hospital School
Oakham v Rugby
Old Swinford Hospital v Monmouth
Portsmouth Grammar v Lord Wandsworth College
Prior Park College v Monkton Combe (Friendly)
QEGS Wakefield v Woodhouse Grove (Pre-Season)
QEH v Wellington School (Pre-Season)
Radley College v Marlborough College
Ravens Wood v Skinners’
Reigate Grammar v St Dunstan’s College
RGS Colchester v St Joseph’s College
RGS Guildford v Epsom College
RGS Newcastle v St Peter’s, York
Robert Gordon’s College v Deeside RFC
Sevenoaks v Caterham
Solihull v Denstone College
St Albans v Bedford Modern
St Aloysius’ College v Glenalmond College
St Anselm’s College v Cheadle Hulme
St George’s Weybridge v Pangbourne College
St Paul’s v Campion
Stowe v Stamford
The Leys v Bishop’s Stortford High
The Oratory v Shiplake College
The Perse v Uppingham
Tiffin v Wallington County Grammar
Tonbridge v St John’s, Leatherhead
Trent College v Nottingham High
Warwick Triangular: Warwick, Bromsgrove, Cheltenham College
Wellingborough v Leicester Grammar
Wellington College v Northampton School for Boys
Wilmslow High v Altrincham Grammar
Wycliffe College v Hereford Cathedral School
Yarm v Durham (Pre-Season)
Sunday 12th September
Eastbourne College v Havant and Waterlooville RFC (Pre-Season)