- Whitgift School and John Fisher School renew old rivalries
- England international and fomer Whitgift wing Marland Yarde recalls intense battles
Photo: RFU Archive
The NatWest Schools Cup fourth round this week will serve up some interesting fixtures including a rare gem with Whitgift School taking on John Fisher School in what is arguably the most fierce schools rugby rivalry in the country.
One player with fond memories of the fixture is England and London Irish wing Marland Yarde who helped England to beat Australia in a recent QBE International at Twickenham.
Yarde, a former Whitgift School wing, played in some highly competitive and emotionally charged Croydon derby fixtures during his time at Whitgift, including a 15-13 win the first season Whitgift won the U18 cup in 2010, in a match that Yarde describes as “defining” that year.
He said: “It was the defining game in the Cup that season, and meant we were eventually able to play at Twickenham, which is a great venue, and we were lucky to win the final quite comfortably in the end.
“It’s massive for the players, but you almost feel it’s even bigger for the people watching. It’s obviously a big rivalry with the schools being so close to each other.
“It’s always a fascinating game. It’s definitely the game the whole school looks forward to, and is normally a feisty but honest affair where everyone gives it their all for the school. It will be a tight game and a brilliant spectacle, and hopefully the boys will pull through!”
Yarde’s ascension from raw athletic talent to world-class finisher has been as fast his footwork, and is a rise that can find its foundations in the Croydon school.
He added: ”It was massive (in personal development terms). Just the focus, the drive, the facilities, the resources available and the quality of coaching was absolutely magnificent. It was definitely a good stepping stone for a player wanting to play professionally.”
Yarde has now experienced the pressure of playing in the biggest occasions under intense pressure, so what advice would someone with that kind of experience give to the players going into such a big Cup match this week?
“I would just tell them to seize the opportunity, and not put too much pressure on themselves,” said Yarde.
“Make sure you keep your head, stick to your roles and to not get too emotionally involved is the important thing.
“In derby matches like that, guys can forget their roles and look too far ahead, so it’s about staying composed under pressure and enjoying the occasion as it’s not often that a schools player will be able to play in a game as big as that.”
The two schools have already met once this season, where Whitgift ran out 25-24 winners in a dramatic game with close to 2000 spectators present at John Fisher School, which should add a little more spice to an occasion that will be simmering come Wednesday afternoon at Whitgift.
Recent Cup meetings
15-13 Whitgift win, November 2009
18-17 Whitgift win, November 2010
33-19 Whitgift win, November 2013