SAINTS AID WELLINGBOROUGH'S CUP BID
Wellingborough School are being helped by Zurich Premiership club Northampton Saints as they prepare for the biggest match in their history, the Daily Mail Under-15 Schools Cup semi-final against St Paul's School, Barnes at Castlecroft in Wolverhampton on Saturday March 5 (11am).
Rob Hunter, coach of the Northampton Saints Academy, will be puting the Wellingborough players through their paces at a training session this week and the Wellingborough team will call in at Franklin's Gardens en route to Wolverhampton on Friday.
The players will have a light training session at the Premiership club and they will be presented with their match jersey by a member of the Saints first team squad.
"We don't know who will do it yet, it will depend on club and international commitments," said Steve Adams, Wellingborough's director of sport.
"We want to make it a special occasion for the boys and a weekend they will remember. Quite a number of them are Northampton fans and Northampton are keen to help they are looking for some of the boys to play in their Academy development squad."
Wellingborough have emerged as the surprise package of this season's competition reaching the last four at the first attempt even though they play football in the pre-Christmas term.
They have also had to overcome the second handicap of having been drawn away in every round so far although they will nominally be the home side in the semi-final.
"It's the first 'home' game we have been given," Adams said. "I'm not sure how that would affect us if the scores were level after extra-time. Would St Paul's go through as the away team. That's something that we ned to check out."
Wellingborough will be without lock Ed Sanders, who damaged knee ligaments two weeks ago, and they will also need to give a late fitness test to outside centre Oliver Storey who missed last weekend's win over King Henry VIII School, Coventry because of a rib injury.
A national semi-final will be a new experience for the Wellingborough players but not for Adams. Two years ago he was coach of Mount St Mary's College from Derbyshire when they were beaten by Coopers Co & Coburn School from Essex in the semi-finals of the Daily Mail Under-18 Schools Vase and it is an experience that he does not want to repeat.
"It's never nice to lose in a semi-final and it's not something you want to experience again," Adams said. "Mount St Mary's had a weakened side on the day but it was still bitterly disappointing.
"We accept that we go into this game as underdogs and that St Paul's are a very strong side. But we didn't expect to get as far as the fifth round and as we showed against Bradford Grammar in the quarter-finals, this side has tremendous spirit and they keep proving people wrong."
The other Daily Mail Under-15 Schools Cup semi-final between St Benedict's School, Ealing and St Peter's School, York will also be played at the RFU National Centre for Schools and Youth Rugby at Castlecroft in Wolverhampton on March 5 (1pm).
The final will be played at Twickenham on Wednesday March 23.
OAKHAM COMFORTABLE WITH FAVOURITES TAG
Oakham School are comfortable with their tag as favourites to win the Daily Mail Under-15 Schools Vase.
The Rutland school lifted the Daily Mail Under-18 Schools Cup in both 2002 and 2003 and fancied their chances of a run to the latter stages of the junior cup this season until they were surprisingly beaten by neighbours King Edward VII School from Melton Mowbray in the first round.
Their early exit from the cup meant Oakham moved into the Vase competition where they almost made an early exit, scrambling a 14-8 win at Fakenham High School from Norfolk in the first round.
They have subsequently made relatively smooth progress to the last four where they face Aylesbury GS at Castlecroft in Wolverhampton on Sunday March 6 (11am).
"This is not really a competition where you expect to find big names taking part but we had an off-day against King Edward's from Melton Mowbray and paid the penalty," said Charlie Welch, Oakham's director of rugby.
"I think, given our reputation and the fact that we have done well in the Under-18 cup in the past, we will probably be considered favourites to win the competition.
"But we genuinely thought that we had a side that was capable of making the fifth or sixth round of the cup this year and that didn't work out for us."
The Cup exit was the low point of Oakham's season, since when results have improved and a hard-working side has pulled together.
Oakham's rugby season officially ended at Christmas - they have since switched to hockey - but their success in the Daily Mail Vase has allowed them to extend the season.
Victory at KE and QM Lytham in the quarter-finals was the result of a dogged effort from the pack, which included Under-14 prospect Oliver Wolfe at number eight, but Welch says that Oakham's strength is all round.
"I wouldn't say that we have a particular strength up front or outside the scrum," he said. "Our back division is quite useful but we played it quite tight in the quarter-final at Lytham where we were losing at half-time but the forwards really took control in the second half which was something that we didn't really expect."
The second semi-final at Castlecroft on March 6 will be between Maidstone GS and Millthorpe School from York (1pm).