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NatWest Schools Cup inspires new generation

13 January 2014

  • NatWest Schools Cup boosts Colfe’s confidence
  • Rugby’s core values benefit all areas of school life
Colfe's School in U15 NatWest Schools Cup action

Photo: RFU Archive

Colfe’s School in South East London may not yet be considered a powerhouse rugby school, but reaching Round 5 of the U15 NatWest Schools Cup has opened the squad’s eyes to what they can achieve if they stick together as a team.

The Cup has shown the players the value of hard work and has inspired them to use the next three years to develop their skills so they can match the best when they meet again in the U18 NatWest Schools Cup.

Colfe’s knocked out Kingsdale (50-7), Beths Grammar (24-10 H), Langley Park (26-29 A) and Eltham College (27-27 A) on their way to the fifth round, a significant achievement for a team that didn’t win a game last season.

Andrew Foster, Colfe’s U15 rugby coach, said: “Our boys got a great deal out of the competition and took away some terrific memories. You don’t necessarily need to reach Twickenham in order for it to be a worthwhile journey.”

Colfe’s campaign ended in a 52-0 defeat at the hands of Dulwich College, but Foster praised his side’s strength of character against the defending champions: “The boys showed spirit and resilience against a school which has won the Cup two years running. 

“We accept we are not yet at the same level as some of the powerhouses of school rugby like Dulwich, Millfield, RGS or Wellington College. As a co-ed school we have approximately 60 boys in a year rather than 160. However it is very encouraging to see two-thirds of the boys in the year volunteering to play rugby.

“The NatWest Schools Cup has given the guys a tremendous amount of confidence. A Cup competition inspires something special in the build-up to a game and the sense of achievement and enjoyment felt by our players at progressing to each round has made them even more determined to succeed.

“It was exciting for the team to play Beckenham and Blackheath under the floodlights in front of a crowd of hundreds. Many students spoke of the amazing sensation they felt when they were applauded off the pitch. It was the first time they had been able to clap the crowd, just as they had seen their England heroes thank supporters after internationals.”

The core values of rugby are also having an impact on other areas of school life according to their U15 rugby coach who is  Head of GCSE performance at the school: “You can see the boys taking what they have learnt on the rugby field into the classroom; qualities like teamwork, respect and positivity. 

The players have also benefited from the school’s introduction of a psychology programme called ‘Tougher Minds which is run by Jon Finn and Professor Jim McKenna. Leadership and decision-making skills develop on the rugby pitch and aid pupils’ academic work.

“Before each game the boys write down key targets for the match and will then reflect on what they have achieved,” says Foster. “Even at 14 they have a tremendous grasp of psychology and the positive effects a team can achieve through praise and focus.

With this attitude Foster believes the ultimate goal of reaching the U18 NatWest Cup Final in three years’ time is achievable: “We had many U14s, one only 13 years old, making significant contributions in the U15s NatWest Schools Cup this season, so it will be exciting to see how they develop. The players are determined to use the next three years to improve individually and to advance as a group. Hopefully they will then be able to match the Dulwiches and Wellingtons of this world.”

It may seem a sizeable hill to climb after the 52-0 defeat inflicted by Dulwich College, but Colfe’s are keen to arrange a friendly re-match this time next year to see if they have narrowed the gap. 

“We have already closed 50 points on teams we lost to last season,” says Foster, “so we have set ourselves another clear target: 52 weeks, 52 points. We intend to claw them all back, one week at a time!”