A blog from Rugby World reader, Will Carpenter
In previous times, schools rugby, especially at under 18 level has been dominated by the countries’ major private schools. The likes of Millfield, Colstons, Bryanston and Wellington have all enjoyed major success in the last 20 years, especially in the Daily Mail Cup. However, the previous five years has seen the emergence of fresh competition for these prestigious establishments, in the form of colleges.
Many colleges have adapted their rugby programmes into an academy like setup, in which rugby is timetabled in around academic study. A standard day could consist of a 9am gym session, followed by a few hours of lectures and then finished off with a squad session in the evening.
Filton College, in Bristol was one of the first establishments to adapt this structure. The college boasts a number of under 18 internationals that have come through the programme in recent years, as well as several players that have gone on to sign professional contracts. To add to this, one ex-pupil/player, Taulupe Faletau was recently selected in the Wales squad for the autumn internationals. In terms of team success, Filton have been crowned champions of the prestigious St. Josephs National 15-a-side festival three times in the last 5 years; winning in 05/06, 07/08 and 08/09.
The introduction of the academy programme to colleges has enabled them to compete regularly with the real forces of schoolboy rugby. Although many of them are now not entered into the Daily Mail cup, due to new competition guidelines, fixtures against the likes of Millfield are still arranged annually.
To crown the ascent of colleges, up the ranks of schoolboy rugby, the RFU introduced the AASE (Advance Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence) scheme in 2009. This competition involves the top 12 rugby playing colleges in England, with each college being linked to one of fourteen RFU academies. For example, Filton College, earlier mentioned, are linked to Bristol Rugby and Twyford C of E College is linked to London Wasps. The introduction of this competition allows rugby playing students from colleges to compete at the highest level, as well as the scheme itself, mirroring the standard of the Daily Mail Cup.
Some would argue that the separate competitions for schools and colleges, creates a divide, but many compete outside the walls of their detached systems. There is also the opportunity for them to meet in tournaments, namely sevens. Tournaments such as Rosslyn Park provide a fantastic stage for the very best young players to showcase their talents. All in all, the RFU has a strong system in place for the development of English rugby.