The big kick off for the 2022/23 Schools Rugby season is this weekend and there are some absolutely huge games to kick the season off, including a bumper Super Sunday at Sedbergh School for the launch of The Schools Championship.
The buzz ahead of the season is huge, and there have already been some fine performances through pre-season and in the handful of competitive games that we have had in the build up to this weekend’s big kick off – look no further than Skinners’, who had a fantastic 2021/22 season and have started with two superb performances.
Our preview of the opening weekend starts below, but first a few bits of breaking news ahead of the new season!
The Schools Championship
The Schools Championship is a brand new addition to the schools rugby calendar this year. Four teams will compete over six rounds over the next three months with the winners crowned the inaugural champions of The Schools Championship (TSC).
In this initial season TSC will consist of one league conference of four teams, Millfield, Sedbergh, Wellington College, and Whitgift. In 2023/24 that conference will expand to six teams. However, The Schools Championship will not be limited to only these 6 schools in 2023, with the intention and target that more schools will want to join once they see how the TSC runs this year. The first 4 schools (along with Clifton College guesting at the Sedbergh weekend) will showcase the possibilities of the TSC, both on and off the field. The vision is for a series of conferences being established giving teams competition against teams of a similar level, whilst also allowing for traditional fixtures to remain firmly in place.
NextGenXV are the Official Media Partners and will be live streaming every single game on our YouTube channel and website, starting with Millfield v Clifton College and Sedbergh v Whitgift both live from Sedbergh School this Sunday.
You can read more about it and what to expect here: The Schools Championship Launches.
Another brand new addition to the schools rugby scene this season is the NextGenXV Podcast, co-hosted by former Wellington College Director of Rugby Dan Richards and our own Angus Savage.
Each week they will chat through the big stories in schools and grassroots rugby, pick out some of the best bits from the week gone by and look ahead to what’s coming up.
Episode 1 is now available on YouTube (and below) and will be on all your usual podcast apps shortly – handy for those long away trips on the coach – as the two talk Eddie Jones’ summer comments, The Schools Championship, the weekend’s big fixtures, teams to watch this season, and plenty more – including some of the best players that Dan has had the chance to watch.
Week 1 Fixtures Preview
The season really is starting with an absolute bang this weekend with a packed fixture list on Saturday, a really busy Friday evening, and those two huge games on Sunday. Indeed such is the abundance of massive games with which the season begins that even within episode 1 of the podcast some epics got skipped over, not least of which was Brighton College v Tonbridge, which could be one of the games of the weekend.
Of course there are hundreds of games going on up and down the country, each game uniquely special to the groups of players pulling on the shirt – be it for the first time, for the first time this year, and, perhaps most special of all, for those pulling it on for the opening game of their final year. For practical reasons we can only go into detail on so many games each week, but we will strive all season to give each school their shout outs and to make sure that key games and achievements are well publicised. Please do therefore get in touch with your stories and news as the more info we have, the more we can share!
Ten to Watch
As in the past, our weekly preview begins with our ‘Ten to Watch’, ten key fixtures from around the country that we think should provide some great action and interesting stories, and this first ten games of the season looks like an absolutely brilliant set with which to kick the season off.
Brighton College v Tonbridge – Saturday
A massive game for both to kick off with. They actually met last week in a triangular with KCS Wimbledon to round off their pre-season preparations so they should be familiar with each other after that, but in a wider sense there won’t be too much familiarity because this is a brand new fixture for these two teams. They have not met in a regular season game since 2011, a surprising stat given their number of common opponents. It is great to see it on the list now though and it should just add to that start of season feeling, two new groups of players, a brand new season, and a brand new fixture. Strap in, because these two have some of the richest rugby history around.
Hampton v Seaford College (at Cobham RFC) – Friday
A huge game that is one of the very first of the weekend, kicking off at Cobham RFC on Friday night to get the season off to an electric start. Our reporter Peter Crawshaw will be on site to take in what should be cracking games on many levels, one of which is Seaford College Director of Rugby Sean Thomson taking on his old side, now led by Andy Beattie. That’s the off-field fun and games, but on things are going to be even better, two sides that have been fantastic in recent times. Indeed Seaford College are one of our dark horse tips this year to be one of the finest sides around. Hampton are going to be a tough though, as ever. Last year Seaford claimed victory in this fixture, but prior to that it was five Hampton victories on the bounce. Now in a Friday night slot in the first game of the season, this is going to be special!
Ipswich v Uppingham
All through last year Ipswich were referred to as the rising stars and the dark horses, well, no longer – they are established stars now and one of the brightest horses around. They have a tough looking fixture list and it begins against a new opponent, Uppingham. Uppingham haven’t hit the heights of the early 2000s of late, but they are a side with one of the most famous rugby histories around. They also have a number of pupils from Suffolk, so a trip to Ipswich is going to see a healthy travelling support and plenty of familiar faces up against one another. Ipswich will need to be on their mettle to kick the season off in the manner that they will be so desperate to as they look to really shake up the historical pecking order.
Millfield v Clifton College (at Sedbergh) – Sunday – Live on NextGenXV
The first of our double header of live games from Super Sunday at Sedbergh School this weekend, and the first game involving one of the side from The Schools Championship. Although not an official Schools Championship game, Clifton College are a guest side, it will have all the feel of it and don’t be surprised if, on sampling it, Clifton opt to throw their hat in the ring for future years. On the field it should be an epic, these two had two of the best Colts groups around last year and two of the best 1st XVs too. Their head to head in November last year was of an absurdly high quality despite conditions (check out the highlights below), and if we are treated to anything like that on Sunday then we are in for a spectacular first live game of the season. This is one not to be missed, two teams that are almost certainly going to be among the best in the business this year.
RGS High Wycombe v Berkhamsted – Saturday
The Daily Mail Trophy champions, Berkhamsted, get their season underway with a trip to RGS High Wycombe, always one of the trickier away trips on the circuit. Berkhamsted were fantastic last year, their only defeat coming to Trinity in the Cup, who of course went on to win that competition. They will be keen to get this years campaign off to a flyer after last year’s brilliance, brilliance that included two home victories over RGS High Wycombe. On their own turf though, RGS are an even tougher beast, they have such a proud history and have the potential for a really strong season this year. They will be viewing this as a chance to make a statement against one of the very best from last year, announcing themselves in a big way for this season. All of which means that Saturday should be a fantastic season opener.
Rugby v Oakham – Saturday
2023 will mark 200 years of the game, and of course therefore 200 years of rugby at Rugby School. Therefore the 2022/23 season is the start of what is going to be a very special time for the school and they are going to be determined to get it off to the best possible of starts when they host Oakham on Saturday. They are going to have to be on song right from the off though because, like Rugby, Oakham have a long and proud history themselves and a cracking side too. They met twice last year and in the equivalent fixture at Oakham, Rugby secured victory. Later on in the year though they met at Rugby in the Cup, where Oakham turned the table. That all bodes well for a very good contest at the start of a very special season, in one of the great settings in all of schools rugby.
Sedbergh v Whitgift (The Schools Championship) – Sunday – Live on NextGenXV
The first ever fixture in The Schools Championship, and the second of a double header up at Sedbergh as these two follow on from our first live stream of the day, Millfield v Clifton College. Kicking off at 12pm this one will be live too and you will be able to watch on our YouTube channel and website, and it promises to be a spectacular occasion. Not just because it is the opening game of The Schools Championship and the festival atmosphere that will surround that, but also because of the sheer quality that is likely to be seen on the pitch. This time last year Covid forced the postponement of this game, eventually it was shifted to mid-October where, after a close first half, Sedbergh stormed to a 52-13 victory at Whitgift. Whitgift are going to be in no mood to allow that to happen again and Sedbergh will have to be absolutely on the money to get off to a great start in front of the live cameras at Buskhome. It’s going to be an almighty contest and showcase the very best of what schools rugby can offer.
Stamford v Stowe – Saturday
Both of these sides are worth keeping an eye on last year, Stamford look to be building and Stowe had a brilliant side last year that are only going to be more mature and ready this year as they look to add to last year’s Schools Plate and Rosslyn Park Vase triumphs. The only downside for Saturday is that Henry Pollock and Archie McParland, Stowe’s two England U18 stars may be absent as they are getting the fantastic opportunity to bench for Northampton Saints in the Premiership Cup tonight (Thursday). Nevertheless, we are expecting plenty from Stowe this year and Stamford will want to demonstrate early on that they can be up amongst it too. Last year Stowe took this one at home, now on Stamford turf, it could be another cracker.
Warwick v Bromsgrove – Saturday
One of the great opening day fixtures, usually these two top and tail their season against each other, although last year the opener was part of a triangular (Bromsgrove won the clash between the pair 5-3), and the season ender was lost to Covid. This year it’s back to normal, meeting at Warwick on Saturday and Bromsgrove at the end of term. Between them they have produced some of the most dominant sides of the last decade, winning four Schools Cup titles in a row from 2015-2018. The winner of this fixture usually sets themselves up with the momentum to head into the rest of the season as a front-runner and with each facing Berkhamsted one after the other after this, that momentum is going to be vital. A schools rugby classic, and one of the great season openers.
Wellington College v Harrow – Saturday
The only team from The Schools Championship not up at Sedbergh this weekend are Wellington College, but who would bet on it being long before this fixture becomes a part of The Schools Championship calendar. Indeed if Harrow perform this year as they are expected to, they will surely be hammering down the door. Expectations are high for Harrow this year, a good L6th group from last year joined by a strong Colts side to form this year’s 1st XV. Wellington College have high expectations too, not least from a backline that looks as though it could thrill. This has all the ingredients to be an absolute classic, and despite the sheer number of top quality fixtures this weekend there is a strong argument to put this right at the top of the pile. There are few places better to start the season that Wellington’s Bigside, whoever wins this will be sending a huge message out to the rest of the schools rugby world.
The weekend is about so much more than those ten fixtures though, and across the county it is going to be the most spectacular and exciting weekend. With any luck the sun shines, after all we have November and December in the wet and wild, surely we deserve good conditions for a while – umbrellas, hats, and jumpers will get their chance!
Bedford Modern v St Albans (at Bedford Athletic RFC)
Clifton College 2nd XV v Sir Thomas Rich’s
Hartpury College 3rd XV v Pate’s Grammar
Oundle v Bedford
Reading Blue Coat v Bishop Wordsworth’s
RGS Colchester v St Joseph’s College (at Colchester RFC)
Rougemont v St Luke’s College, Argentina (Tour Game)
St Benedict’s v Worth
It’s a massive Friday night to kick the season off and there are some brilliant games on the fixture card. One that plenty are going to be keeping an eye on is St Benedict’s v Worth after St Benedict’s stunning 3rd place finish in the Daily Mail Trophy last year. That’s going to leave them with a target on their backs though and a strong looking Worth side are going to be the first to try and have a shot at that target, how St Benedict’s respond will tell us plenty about them and how close to last year’s exploits they can get.
Oundle v Bedford is an early season classic, moved to a Friday night slot for the first time this year and what a brilliant innovation that is. Always a great occasion and this Friday night slot should make it event more so. So too for Bedford’s local rivals Bedford Modern who are taking on St Albans at Bedford Athletic RFC in what should be another brilliant season opener in a great setting.
Reading Blue Coat were a side that featured heavily on our live streams last year during their fantastic Schools Vase runs, and they begin with another high profile game this year, taking on Bishop Wordsworth’s on Friday night in a game that should be a really strong contest between two rising stars. Elsewhere Friday’s night’s big games keep coming in, Sir Thomas Rich’s will look to make a strong start against Clifton College’s 2nd XV, who will be about as strong as most 1st XVs this year, similarly Pate’s Grammar up against Hartpury College’s 3rds.
One to head to if you’re in East Anglia is definitely RGS Colchester v St Joseph’s College, which promises to be a top encounter with a packed crowd at Colchester RFC. There’s excitement at Rougemont too as they welcome Argentine tourists St Luke’s College.
Abingdon v Magdalen College (pre-season)
Altrincham Grammar v Wilmslow High
Ampleforth College v Bradford Grammar
Bryanston v Sherborne
Campion v Coopers’ Coborn
Canford v Marlborough College
Cardinal Vaughan v Gunnersbury
Caterham v Sevenoaks
Cheadle Hulme v St Anselm’s College
Cheltenham College v Bloxham
Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar v Langley Park
Christ College v Malvern College
Christ’s Hospital v Richard Collyer
Dean Close v King’s College, Taunton
Dundee High v Loretto
Edinburgh Academy v Stewart’s Melville
Epsom College v RGS Guildford
Exeter School v Plymouth College
Fettes College v Glenalmond
George Heriot’s v Robert Gordon’s College
George Watson’s College v Strathallan
Grammar School at Leeds Triangular: Durham, Grammar School at Leeds, Mount St Mary’s College
Haileybury v Felsted
Hereford Cathedral School v Wycliffe College
Hill House v Ashville Harrogate
Hurstpierpoint College v St John’s Leatherhead
Hymers College v Barnard Castle
John Fisher v Eton College
Judd v Eltham College
KCS Wimbledon v Reed’s
Kelvinside Academy v Glasgow High
KES Bath v Bristol Grammar
KES Southampton v Portsmouth Grammar
King’s Bruton v Monkton Combe
King’s Canterbury v Duke of York’s Royal Military
Lancaster RGS v King’s Macclesfield
Leicester Grammar v Wellingborough
Loughborough Grammar v Ratcliffe College (Schools Vase)
Marr College v Hutchesons’ Grammar
Merchiston Castle v Dollar Academy
Mill Hill v Bishop’s Stortford High
Milton Abbey v Leweston
Monmouth v Old Swinford Hospital
Morrison’s Academy v Queen Victoria
Newcastle School for Boys v Austin Friars
Newcastle-Under-Lyme v Birkenhead
Northampton School for Boys v Denstone College
Nottingham High v Trent College
Pangbourne College v St George’s College, Weybridge
Princethorpe College v Solihull
QES Barnet v Bishop’s Stortford High 2nd XV
Reigate Grammar v Colfe’s
RGS Worcester v Collegiate
Richard Hale v UCS
Sandbach v Lymm High
Scarborough College v St Peter’s, York 2nd XV
Scarisbrick Hall v St David’s College, Llandudno
Sir Joseph Williamson’s v Dartford Grammar
St George’s, Harpenden v Merchant Taylors’, Northwood
St Olave’s Grammar v Cranbrook
St Paul’s v Wimbledon College
St Peter’s Gloucester v King’s Worcester
St Peter’s, York v RGS Newcastle
Stockport Grammar v Manchester Grammar
Stonyhurst v AKS Lytham
Sutton Valence v Brentwood
Wallington County Grammar v Tiffin
Wellington School v QEH
Wells Cathedral v Queen’s College, Taunton
Windsor Boys’ v Emanuel
Wirral Grammar v Kirkham Grammar
Saturday is, as always, an incredibly busy day with top quality fixtures across the country. A shoutout first though to Caterham, who allowed us to film Episode 1 of the NextGenXV Podcast at their fantastic facilities as we saw their groundstaff preparing for Saturday’s opening encounter against Sevenoaks. That should be a fantastic occasion and, if the quality of the pitches is anything to go by, a great rugby spectacle too.
That South Eastern area of the country has some great games this weekend, and some top performers from last year that are going to be interesting to assess early on this year. KCS Wimbledon were absolutely fantastic last year, reaching the Schools Plate final and an 8th place finish in the Daily Mail Trophy. They begin this year against Reed’s, who have had a busy pre-season and will be eager to try to catch the Wimbledon side cold. KCS’ local rivals Wimbledon College have a big start to their year, they travel to a St Paul’s side that have plenty of promise ahead of this season.
One of the great fixtures is always John Fisher v Eton College, one of the great state rugby schools against probably the most famous independent school. It’s a fantastic occasion each and every year, and so often a great contest too. Eton had an outstanding Colts side last year, this will be an early marker to see how well that Colts group’s success translates to senior success. Eton’s neighbours Windsor Boys’ welcome Clapham’s Emanuel, while Wallington County Grammar School are hosting Tiffin side that has the potential to cause a few problems this year.
Eltham College have had a busy pre-season, they now start the season proper with a tricky trip to The Judd, who had some great results last year and will be looking to add to that this year. One side that really impressed last year and seems likely to again this year is Sutton Valence. Proving increasingly valuable to Saracens and equally exciting to watch, they begin their campaign at home to Brentwood, who seemed to have a real resurgence last year. St Olave’s Grammar are opening their season at home to Cranbrook, with Sir Joseph Williamson’s also at home, they host Dartford Grammar, meanwhile Langley Park look to bounce back from defeat to Skinners’ on their trip to Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar.
Year after year Epsom College have demonstrated themselves to be among the best in the business, they have a testing start though, hosting an RGS Guildford side that have plenty of promise this season. Epsom are expected to be good, but RGS will require their full attention. Epsom’s local rivals St John’s Leatherhead have a trip on the road as they head south to take on Hurstpierpoint College, a game between two sides that have had the ability to have some great teams at points in the last few years, it should be another good game. Elsewhere, there is a big south coast derby as KES Southampton welcome Portsmouth Grammar, while in Kent King’s Canterbury welcome Duke of York’s Royal Military School. Meanwhile Reigate Grammar School’s season begins with a game at home against Colfe’s and Christ’s Hospital welcome Richard Collyer, a side that could just be worth paying a bit of attention to this year. Back in London, Campion’s season begins at their fearsome home ground against Coopers’ Coborn, with Cardinal Vaughan welcomingGunnersbury on the West side of the capital, while further West still, Pangbourne College welcome Surrey’s St George’s College Weybridge.
North of the capital there are some belters, chief among them Haileybury v Felsted. Two sides that have produced some utterly brilliant teams in recent times, and it looks as though Haileybury are going to be a really tough side to beat this year after a strong showing last year at U16 level.
Elsewhere in the rough region, Merchant Taylors’ Northwood are heading to St George’s Harpenden for what ought to be a strong season opener, while Richard Hale welcome UCS. Bishop’s Stortford High School have a busy day of away action at senior level to kick things off, their 1st XV are in action at Mill Hill, while along the road their 2nd XV take on QES Barnet.
Further up the road there is a magnificent fixture to open the season between two sides that are due to be on your screens on NextGenXV live streams in the coming weeks, Northampton School for Boys and Denstone College, two sides that have had some truly outstanding teams in recent years and are certainly showing plenty of promise ahead of this season. Over in Leicester, Wellingborough travel up to Leicester Grammar School, while along the road in Loughborough there is some early Schools Vase action as Loughborough Grammar School welcome Ratcliffe College.
There’s a huge Nottingham derby to kick things off in the Midlands too as Nottingham High School welcome Trent College in what is sure to be an enormous occasion with which to open the season. Meanwhile Princethorpe College welcome Solihull, with Solihull looking for a strong season like some of those they had in the mid 2010s.
Moving West to Worcester, where professional rugby might be looking a little shaky, but the school game is looking rosy, and where RGS Worcester will be looking to build on a strong season last year. They begin their campaign at home against a side and a school looking to make a new history, Collegiate School, who were formerly known as Colston’s – once the most feared rugby school in the land.
Into the South West and there are some brilliant games to keep an eye on, among them RGS’ local rivals King’s Worcester, who head off to St Peter’s Gloucester in a game that should resonate with many, both sides have had some phenomenal achievements down the years. Not far from there is Cheltenham College v Bloxham, two sides that have had some astonishing teams and players in recent times and will be hoping to keep the momentum up. A good performance on Saturday would certainly help that cause. Similarly Dean Close, who didn’t have their best season last year but have incredible talent through players such as Ioan Jones, they take on King’s College Taunton in what could be a cracker.
Canford v Marlborough College is a special fixture, both have had some wonderful sides and a strong performance on Saturday could see either side really feel as though they have a platform to build on through the season. Bryanston v Sherborne is another interesting one, Bryanston once ruled the roost, but have been quiet for a few years now, Sherborne meanwhile had a strange year last year. Heavily covid affected, they struggled at times, but ended up on a Schools Cup run that took them all the way to the semi finals. It is also worth keeping a close eye on the pre-season friendly between Abingdon and Magdalen College.
One team we are excited to see this year are Bristol Grammar School, they look promising but have a tricky away game at KES Bath. Along the road King’s Burton are welcoming Monkton Combe while Milton Abbey host Leweston. Staying in the area, Queen’s College Taunton have a big game to open with at Wells Cathedral School, with Wellington School, who had a cracking year last year, at home to QEG. Meanwhile in Devon there is a great derby between two teams from the biggest cities in the county as Exeter School go head to head with Plymouth College.
Towards Wales, Hereford Cathedral School welcome Wycliffe College, while in Wales there are some massive Anglo-Welsh clashes. Christ College v Malvern College will be huge, Christ College were brilliant last year and there are really high hopes for Malvern this year. At the same time, Monmouth, who were also excellent, welcome and Old Swinford Hospital side that has the potential to hit somewhere near the heights of some of their superb predecessors of the last decade or so. Going the other way are St David’s College, who continue their rise with a trip to Scarisbrick Hall.
Around the North West the rugby is really looking great to kick off the season, and one side that will have eyes glued on them are the Sedbergh Super 10s champions, Kirkham Grammar School. They will be absolutely desperate to maintain that incredible form from last year and begin with a trip to Wirral Grammar School, who themselves had a strong year last year and are building very nicely through the school.
King’s Macclesfield were another side that rounded the season off with that trip to Sedbergh, they have a strong start to the year as well, travelling to Lancaster RGS, who have been strong in recent times. So too Stonyhurst, who seem to have been building year on year for a while, they kick off against AKS Lytham. Wilmslow High School get off and running at Altrincham Grammar, while Birkenhead start away at Newcastle-Under-Lyme. Local rivals St Anselm’s College are also away, facing Cheadle Hulme.
Stockport Grammar v Manchester Grammar should be a good game and a bit of a derby match, while Sandbach v Lymm High has plenty of promise, both schools have produced some superb schools through the years.
Across the Pennines the games look superb too, Grammar School at Leeds are hosting what looks to be a high-level triangular as they welcome Durham and Mount St Mary’s College – keep an eye out for Mount St Mary’s this year, by the way. Staying in Yorkshire, Ampleforth College are hosting Bradford Grammar, a game that would have been the game of the weekend back in the late 80s and early 90s, perhaps it could soon be again? While Hill House welcome Ashville Harrogate and St Peter’s York’s 2nd XV head to Scarborough College.
The St Peter’s York 1st XV have an absolute cracker of a game on their hands this Saturday, meanwhile, as they welcome RGS Newcastle for a game that should tell us an awful lot about the on field early season balance of power in the north of England. Up in Newcastle, it’s a derby to start the season for Newcastle School for Boys and Austin Friars, which should be a great game. Barnard Castle, who are surely going to be a really strong side again this year after some really great recent seasons, are heading down to take on Hymers College for their opening game of the season.
Scotland has plenty of rugby going on this weekend too, indeed it has a couple of weeks of competition under the belt already. Merchiston Castle v Dollar Academy absolutely leaps off the page as a clash between two of Scotland’s most storied sides, but so too does George Watson’s College v Strathallan, particularly with Strathallan seeing to be making big strides off the field this recently.
Edinburgh Academy are at home to Stewart’s Melville, another classic fixture, while Fettes College welcome Glenalmond. George Heriot’s are meanwhile hosting Robert Gordon’s College, with Queen Victoria heading to Morrison’s Academy.
Loretto are on the road this weekend, they make the trip up to Dundee High School. Elsewhere Glasgow High head to Kelvinside Academy and Marr College welcome Hutchesons’ Grammar.
Overall it promises to be an absolutely brilliant weekend of rugby, the start of what is surely going to be a wonderful season. We do hope that you’ll join us for Sunday’s live stream double header, but to please keep us abreast of all of your other games this weekend – photos, reports, comments, videos, clips, and anything else that you might have are all very welcome!
If you are interested in having one of your games live streamed, please contact email@example.com
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The big kick off for the 2022/23 Schools Rugby season is this weekend and there are some absolutely huge games to kick the season off, including a bumper Super Sunday at Sedbergh School for the launch of The Schools Championship.