31 March 2006
Leicester Tigers flanker Will Skinner has been back at his old school, Bedford School, to help their bid to lift the Daily Mail Under-15 Schools Cup.
Skinner ran a coaching session last night for Bedford's forwards ahead of the final against QEGS Wakefield at Twickenham on Wednesday April 5 (12.15pm).
"As an old boy of the school, Will was only too pleased to help out," said Richard Midgley, Bedford's rugby master.
"The boys enjoyed the session he did and hopefully it will be useful on Wednesday. He's very good at stealing the ball in the tackle and he was happy to pass on a few tips about that."
Bedford have also had sessions with sports psychologist Peter Usher, who previously worked with Canada's speed skating and ice hockey olympic teams.
"He's living in Bedford and doing some work with professional footballers at the moment," Midgley said. "But he noticed that we were doing well in the Daily Mail and offered his services free.
"He's been involved since the quarter-finals and the boys have enjoyed his sessions. He's been helping us to prepare for the final and he will be down at Twickenham with us.
"We are just treating the boys as professionally as we can, almost as if they are professional rugby players."
Bedford have sold more than 600 tickets for the final and are happy with their tag as underdogs to a strong QEGS side.
"That suits us perfectly," Midgley said. "We can defend all day, as we had to in the semi-final against Epsom.
"We have a kicker, in Jack Cook, with a great boot and, without giving too much away, if we get the ball we will be a threat."
Bedford report no injury problems and are determined to enjoy their big day out.
"We've already got to Twickenham so we have got nothing to lose," Midgley said. "The boys are relaxed and positive. We are going to have a lot of support there so we are looking forward to the day."
JOHN CLEVELAND AIM TO ADD TO SILVERWARE
John Cleveland College from Hinckley will attempt to win their second trophy in as many weeks when they take on Langley Park Boys School from Beckenham in the final of the Daily Mail Under-15 Schools Vase at Twickenham on Wednesday April 5 (11am).
JCC lifted the Leicestershire Schools Cup at their age group earlier this week and will attempt to complete the double when they appear in their second Twickenham final in three seasons. They won the Daily Mail Under-15 Schools Cup two years ago when they beat Sherborne School 17-12.
"We beat Loughborough GS 22-3 in the county cup final on Tuesday which was useful preparation for the Daily Mail," said Dave Heybrock, JCC's master-in-charge of rugby.
"It was good to win some silverware and to give some game time to some of the players who are likely to be on the bench at Twickenham. We possibly had one eye on the Daily Mail final but it was good to have the game a week before going to Twickenham."
Although JCC are no strangers to Twickenham, Heybrock believes the final will be decided by who overcomes big match nerves the quicker.
"I don't think we start as favourits, it's more 50-50," he said. "A lot will come down to how makes the least mistakes and who is right mentally on the day rather than on pure ability.
"Some players can freeze on the big occasion and it won't be until they get out onto the pitch that we will be able to tell which side has coped with the occasion."
Heybrock and head coach Pat Brooks, a Canadian who plays his club rugby for Hinckley, were both at Twickenham two years ago but they are looking forward to their return trip.
"It's a great experience and one that will live with the players for the rest of their rugby lives," Heybrock said.
"There is a lot excitement already but I don't think it will really hit them what a big occasion it is until they actually get to Twickenham and get onto the pitch."
Heybrock expects to select from a full-strength squad having rested lock Matt Nurse (hand injury) from the county cup final.
JCC's physical size enabled them to overcome Royal Latin School in the semi-finals at Castlecroft in Wolverhampton two weeks ago. But Langley Park proved tenacious and resilient opponents in overcoming a bigger and fancied Hutton GS team in their semi.
"I watched Langley Park's semi-final and thought, in the first ten minutes or so, that Hutton looked the stronger team and that would win," Heybrock said.
"But Langley Park defended well, they stopped Hutton playing and then took control in the second half. They played very well and they looked very resilient."
JCC will go into the final with good luck messages from three famous old boys, the Leicester Tigers trio of Sam Vesty, Ollie Smith and Graham Rowntree.
"In the past they've been over to help out with coaching," Heybrock said. "The coaching we have been doing recently has been specific rather than as a team so the Tigers boys haven't been over.
"But they are fully aware of how we are doing and they have passed on their best wishes for the final."