The St Joseph’s College National Schools Rugby Festival brings together 16 of the best British rugby playing schools for two days of fast paced entertainment within the beautiful 60 acre College grounds on the edge of Ipswich this weekend.
In its 28th year, hosts and reigning Champions, St Joseph’s College, are joined by previous Festival and the NatWest, formerly Daily Mail, National Schools Cup Winners for the last three years, Dulwich College.
Both teams will face stiff opposition from current Rugby World Team of the Year, Millfield School, and previous National Schools Cup Winners RGS High Wycombe, Bradford Grammar School and QEGS Wakefield. They will be joined from further afield by five times Scottish Schools Cup Winners, Merchiston College, and Welsh Schools Cup Winners, Whitchurch High School, whose former pupils include not only Gareth Bale of Real Madrid but also, from the rugby pitch, Sam Warburton, captain of Wales and the 2013 British and Irish Lions.
Many recognisable names from the world of rugby have graced the pitches at the Festival over the years in their youth including England and fellow 2013 British and Irish Lions players Chris Robshaw, Mako Vunipola and Christian Wade. Other England players include Jonathan Joseph who is currently making his mark at centre for Bath in the English Premiership, Paul Sackey, Anthony Allen, Olly Morgan, Andy Goode and the late Nick Duncombe whose promising career, having been the senior England team’s youngest debutant scrum half at the time, was tragically ended through illness aged just 21. In memory, the Nick Duncombe Trophy is awarded to the Player of the Tournament at the Festival.
As well as those who have already made their name, the Festival provides a fantastic platform to support young talent from competing teams in realising their potential. There are numerous recent examples but to take a few: Alex Day, St Joseph’s College, James Chisholm, Brighton College, and Tom Ellis, Millfield School, won the IRB Junior World Championship with England U20 in June. Whilst Lewis Ludlam and George Wacokecoke, St Joseph’s College, Huw Ludlam and Sam Smith, Old Swinford Hospital, and Kieran Treadwell, John Fisher School, have all played for England U18 in the last year and look forward to a bright future.
The 16 teams are split into four pools on Saturday with each team playing three matches of 30 minutes over the day that runs from 9am to 5pm. Sunday sees the teams finishing first and second from each pool progress to the Cup Competition and those in third and fourth, into the Plate Competition. The eight teams in each competition are placed in two groups of four playing three matches against the other teams in their group from 8.45am. The winners of each group then play in their respective final – the Plate Final at 3pm and the Cup Final at 3.45pm.