- Combined side get OSH ready for Dulwich College at Twickenham
- Difficult decisions for coach Coalter
Photo: Getty Images
The West Midlands schools rugby community has rallied round to help Old Swinford Hospital School prepare for their Daily Mail RBS Schools Under 18 Cup final against Dulwich College at Twickenham Stadium on Wednesday, April 4.
OSH limbered up for their first appearance at Twickenham – which for the first time is being streamed live on RFU.com – with a match this week against a Combined XV raised from their regular opponents on the Midlands circuit.
"The goodwill shown towards has been overwhelming," said OSH coach Andrew Coalter.
"The combined side was organised by Zak Feau’nati at Bishop Vesey’s but there were players from King Edward’s Birmingham and King Edward’s Aston in there. It meant that we played against some really talented boys in there and it made for a really competitive game as preparation for Dulwich. Thankfully everyone came through unscathed.
"We’ve had lots of messages of support from schools in the area who saying it’s great to have a West Midlands school in the final. A member of staff also went to the sevens at King’s Worcester, who we beat in the semi-finals, and he came back with lots of good luck messages."
Coalter is delighted that centre Max Stelling and lock Ed Taylor, who are in the England Under 18 Clubs and Schools side, and back-row forwards Joe Wrafter and Josh Feek, who are in the England South Under 16 squad preparing for the Wellington Festival, came through their recent training camps unscathed.
But that has left Coalter with some difficult selection decisions to make ahead of the final.
"We’ve had a strong squad this season but that means that there have been some difficult selection decisions to make," Coalter said.
"I have just picked my final 22 and that was really difficult to do. There are going to be some upset boys because everyone wants to be part of the final.Those that aren’t in the 22 will be there on Wednesday because they have played throughout the season and helped us get to Twickenham."
Photo: Getty Images
OSH, who had been beaten in two semi-finals at this age group before they beat King’s Worcester at Broadstreet, will be roared on by almost 3,000 supporters.
They sold out their initial ticket allocation of 2,000 in hours and requested more tickets from the RFU. The headmaster has also laid on ten coaches which have already been booked up.
Worcester Warriors full back Chris Pennell, a former pupil, has sent a message of support and former Worcester flanker James Collins, another old boy, will be there in person.
"It’s a fantastic achievement for a school the size of ours, especially a non-selective one, to get to Twickenham, but the boys should not lose sight of what they have achieved so far in getting to the final," Coalter said.
“For the boys it’s going to be a tremendous experience. As an Irishman going there so soon after we were beaten by England, it’s a bitter pill to swallow!"
Although OSH broke up for the Easter holidays today the team will spend three days together in one of the school’s boarding houses to prepare for what Coalter expects to be a close final against a Dulwich side who defended determinedly to beat St Joseph’s Ipswich in their semi-final.
"We are two similar sides," Coalter said. "Two good defences, well-organised and well-drilled. We are evenly-matched and that should make for a close final.
"Against King’s we were probably a little bit nervous in the first 15 minutes and we missed a few chances that would have put some distance between us and King’s.
"Hopefully we can be a bit more accurate in the final. But I know that I have a group of lads who will give their all for the entire game."