After the success of last years World School Rugby XV we realized we were under additional pressure to get it right in 2021.
Unlike last years list this years XV took a few months to prepare, there were many back and forths with each party having to make their case for the inclusion of their specific choice of talent.
A lack of rugby in the Northern Hemisphere meant it was a challenge uncovering talent specifically in the Irish, Welsh and Scottish markets. What we have below is what we believe is a balanced World Schools XV and we look forward to seeing how they get on in the future.
YOUR 2022 WORLD SCHOOLS XV
15) Jeremiah Asi (St Peters, New Zealand)
St Peters have had somewhat of a dream team this year with only 1 loss against our number one ranked school in the world for 2021, Kelston Boys.
Asi is pure class, searing pace and an ability to open up play from even the most difficult of situations it is a pity for us Union fans that he will continue his development at the New Zealand Warriors in the NRL. A huge loss for rugby but hopefully some time down the line we can see him switch codes.
14) Cassius Cleaves (Wellington College, England)
Harlequins are seriously excited about Cassius Cleaves, and little wonder. The powerful and skilful winger absolutely tore up trees for Wellington College as an U17 in the 2019/20 season and the only shame was that Covid meant little of him was seen at his schoolboy peak as an U18 with the 2020/21 season lost entirely. If things go well for Cleaves, he could quickly before star name not just at Harlequins, but across the entire Premiership and into the international arena.
13) Suleiman Hartzenberg (Bishops, South Africa)
An electrifying wing prospect in 2020 the switch to centre where he partnered rookie Bruce Sherwood was a dream combination absolutely decimating opposition backlines.
An exceptionally gifted athlete Hartzenberg is no one trick pony, possessing speed in spades as well as the spatial awareness and handling to make him an all encompassing threat. Having signed with Western Province we cannot wait to see him in action next year with him being set to take his place in a dangerous backline.
12) Jac Lloyd (Clifton College, Wales)
Perhaps not a traditional 12, but the prospect of a Benson/Lloyd partnership is simply to mouth-watering to ignore. Lloyd follows in the footsteps of his older brother Ioan, who became a Wales international at just 19. Jac signed with Bristol Bears in March 2021, with over three months remaining of his school career. Reports were that as a schoolboy he had taken to training with the senior squad like a natural, particularly when he was just one of two fly halves available during the 2021 Six Nations. Between himself and his brother, just about every position in the Bristol Bears backline is covered for the next decade or more.
11) Ebenezer Tshimanga (Wynberg, South Africa)
Tshimanga has been known to those who closely follow schools rugby for many years now, his meteoric rise has been no surprise and the powerful winger is set for a huge future in the game. To showcase just how talented he is despite no real school season he was called up to the Western Province Under 20 team where he dominated opposition wingers with ease scoring 5 tries in his 5 appearances.
Rumours abound in terms of what his next move will be, some convinced he will stay in the Republic and others believing a move to France is on the cards. It is all speculation right now but whichever club manages to secure his signature is certainly getting a huge player for the future.
10) Jamie Benson (Hampton School, England)
It speaks volumes for the class that oozes from the play of Jamie Benson that Harlequins were not too upset about Tom Lynagh signing with the Queensland Reds because they had Benson in the same yeargroup. In his first season as a pro he has already played for the 1st XV and such are his talents that he is also combining that with studying and playing for Cambridge University. A gifted player whom we named as our number one U18 player in England a year ago, Benson has a brilliant balance to his game and could become a real star – particularly with a certain Marcus Smith to learn from.
9) Sam Howling (Kelston Boys, New Zealand)
The Kelston class of 2021 will be fondly remembered by the local community as one of their best ever. The Invincibles were built around a strong forward pack and a speedy backline but the player that was key to this years dominance was scrumhalf Sam Howling.
A Blues under 18 player back in 2019 as an Under 16 Howling was always destined for big things in the school game. His iq, game management and control have seen him become one of the most sought after young players in the game and we are supremely confident that he will make the step up to senior rugby with relative ease.
8) Neels Volschenk (Grey College, South Africa)
A born leader Neels Volschenk embodies the Grey College spirit, “Grey Guts” as it is known is built into the school DNA and it teaches the pupils to never give in until the final whistle, whether it is an Under 14D player or a 1st XV player the philosophy exists in all spheres.
Neels was tested as a leader this year, Grey College suffered their first loss since 2017 against an exceptional Paarl Gim team and being a captain of a team with a historical win rate of over 90% meant that the pressure was on. A few weeks later he put in a heroic performance and was instrumental in Grey’s record win over Paarl Boys. It is not just his leadership but his general play is outstanding, operating as a ball carrying 8th man whose strength is immense his story has only just begun with a move to the Bulls slated for 2022.
7) Guy Pepper (Barnard Castle, England)
Arguably the most exciting young English openside since the Curry twins were at Oundle. Pepper was sensational for Barnard Castle in 2019/20, and not just at the hard graft, he excelled on the 7s circuit too as Barnard Castle made a real charge towards Rosslyn Park before the pandemic got in the way. He turned pro with Newcastle Falcons in the summer and it is surely only a matter of time before 1st XV appearances come for this classic openside, a player of such rich potential.
6) Che Clarke (Kings College, Auckland)
A truly terrifying unit Che Clarke was named New Zealand’s number 1 prospect by High School Top 200 in his Grade 11 year and for good reason. Standing in at 6 foot 6 and with extraordinary athletic ability the Kings College youngster has been one of the most dominant players in New Zealand schools rugby this year.
His work rate is something special, all over the field of play and a menace at the breakdown no doubt he will become a household name in a few years if his development continues.
5) Daniel Maiava (Nudgee College, Australia)
A true modern day lock, Daniel Maiava was a pillar of Nudgee Colleges pack in 2021 helping them achieve an undefeated season. The standout forward in the Queensland GPS 1st XV competition was dominant in the set piece all season as well as providing utility around the field with strong carries that constantly break the advantage line and a passing and offloading game that creates line break opportunities for his teammates supporting him.
Maiava will join the Melbourne Rebels senior squad in 2022 after being a junior in their academy systems for the past few years whilst playing his schools rugby in Queensland.
4) Tahlor Cahill (Hamilton Boys, New Zealand)
Cahill is one of the most gifted natural athletes on this list. While at Shirley Boys as a 16 year old he was already considered an invaluable first team player and was a goalkicker to boot.
An all round athlete he is known for his prowess in the pool as a leading waterpolo player, was part of a Junior volley ball team that was ranked 2nd in the Cantebury region and was considered a high level cricketing prospect as well as being highly rated at Aussie Rules.
With all this talent surely an exceptional future is on the horizon for the Hamilton Boys star.
3) Siale Lauaki (St Pats Town, New Zealand)
Continuing a fine traditional of high level prop forwards in the Wellington region Lauaki nick named the “Hitman” has been a standout for St Pats Town and truly cemented his position as one of the top front rankers in the country.
Not one to rely on his size alone the prop forward has exceptional scrummaging technique and has tremendous stamina for a man of his size. A skilled prop with good handling and defensive qualities his next move will be interesting to say the least.
2) Bryce Calvert (Westville Boys, South Africa)
South Africa were very blessed within the hooker department this year with Jandre Breitenbach and Luca Bakkes two very special players in their rookie year but this year all eyes were on Westville juggernaut Bryce Calvert.
Over the past few years we have hardly had time to fully appreciate just how special this young talent is. Bryce has enormous strength, he adds much needed grit to any front row lucky enough to have him and his ball carrying skills and dominance in contact is second to none.
Having signed with the Sharks for 2022 we are looking forward to seeing him rep his local Union with distinction in the future.
1) Seb Smith (Stamford School, England)
There are not many clubs that it is better to be involved with right now than Leicester Tigers, and not many with better examples for a young front row forward either, with the likes of Dan Cole and Ellis Genge to learn from and a long history of front row expertise. As his teenage years went on, Smith moved from the back row to the front row, and while at Stamford he became and England U18 international and a formidable presence, the only shame being that the pandemic cost a golden yeargroup the chance to push for glory. Smith, though, may well find plenty of glory in the years that lie ahead.
16) Ollie Fletcher (Newcastle school for Boys, England)
Fletcher made his Newcastle Falcons debut in pre season, and prior to that he had captained Newcastle School for Boys in one of their most successful seasons to date. The young hooker is a talented all round sportsman, cricket being a particular skill. At U16 he moved from the back row to hooker and has not looked back since, linking up with England U18 last year. Bright off the field as well, Fletcher has a wide ranging skillset, and with his father, John, being one of the most renowned coaches of young players in the world, he has the perfect mentor.
17) Carsen Patu (Southport School, Australia)
Carsen Patu follows a long line of quality props to come out of The Southport School in recent years. The dual-code player was one of the most destructive players with ball in hand in his two years in First XV rugby, those strong performances saw him selected in the Qld Reds U18 team this year alongside his school prop partner Massimo de Lutiis. His defence is almost as strong as his carrying with him inflicting big hits on opposing players all season long, his work in tight is overshadowed by his play in the loose but he is equally strong at both, managing to draw penalties for his team at the set piece and exerting pressure on the opposition scrum.
Patu’s performances earned him a development contract with the Queensland Reds for 2022, which he signed despite having interest from the NRL.
18) Dian Heunis (Oakdale Landbou, South Africa)
Heunis puts the Oak in Oakdale! The youngster looks like a big friendly giant which he is, but put him on the field of play he becomes a giant pitbull ready to take on any comers.
His dominance in the scrum in the few fixtures we got to see of him this year was something special, his ball carrying and fitness much improved from his junior days and a move to the Sharks where he could very well form a mouth watering front row with Calvert and Phatu Ganyane makes one confident that this will not be the last we hear of Dian Heunis.
19) Diarmuid Mangan (Newbridge College, Ireland)
Mangan can play in both the second row and in the back row, think Tadgh Beirne, Iain Henderson, or Courtney Lawes and you won’t be far off. He is a tall and skillfull ball player who starred for Newbridge College in their charge for the Leinster Schools Senior Cup in 2020, as an U17, when they knocked out the legendary St Michael’s, only for the final to be lost to covid. 2020/21 was hit for the same reason, but 2021/22 has started well for him in his first year as a pro, turning out for UCD and helping Leinster win the U19 Inter-Pros.
20) Luca Ribbens (Paarl Boys, South Africa)
Luca Ribbens is clearly the most under appreciated young player in South African right now. Perhaps part of that is moving between openside and lock and not settling on a specific position but even then the fact he was not selected to the SA Schools squad was criminal.
Luca combined an extremely high rugby IQ with exceptional handling work, grit and determination that made him a multi-threat prospect. His height and athleticism also ensured that he made an additional lineout option.
Another player who will join the Sharks we remain bullish on his international prospects in the future and look forward to seeing him prove his detractors wrong.
21) Neil le Roux (Oakdale Landbou, South Africa)
Le Roux is another prodigy come good, from a young age the mature head on his shoulders and high rugby IQ were evident. We knew he would be good in 2021, but even we underestimated how good. The Oakdale 2021 class were generational and Le Roux was the conductor who connected backs and forwards with ease and put in some truly majestic performances in the few games he played.
Do not assume it is all just natural talent alone with Neil, the youngster is one of the hardest working young players you will encounter. Many hours spent working on perfecting his passing game as well as his kicking has resulted in the complete junior player you see before you today, the Bulls have truly secured an amazing young talent who is going to be a big name player in the near future.
22) Ajay Faleafaga (St Peters, New Zealand)
Ajay was a started for us in last years World Schools XV and moves to the bench as we felt Jamie Benson would just get the nod over the St Peters school startlet.
Faleafaga was named this years number 1 prospect by High School Top 200 and that was based upon an exceptional 2020 season, the form which he continued in the 2021 season meant he was a sure thing for New Zealand schools selection but unfortunately only made the Barbarians side, another head scratcher.
23) Robert Toia (Nudgee College, Australia)
Despite being a year of graduating Nudgee College Outside Centre Robert Toia cemented himself as one of the best schoolboy players in either code of Rugby in Australia for 2021, starring for Nudgee in their undefeated 2021 season. Making his debut for Nudgee last year as a Year 10 spectators saw glimpses of his ability throughout the 1st XV season, where he came up against last years World Schoolboy XV Outside Centre Jack Howarth in the premiership deciding game. Toia led the Queensland GPS in defenders beaten with 46 in just 6 games.
Robert Toia is signed with the Sydney Roosters in the NRL playing both codes throughout his time at Nudgee. Hopefully he will be able to play Rugby Union until he finishes his time at school.
*Special thanks to Herschelle Fruean from HS Top 200 and Max Williamson from GPS Rugby for their assistance in this list