- England U20s cap recalls school's Twickenham high
- Playing at the Home of England Rugby “absolutely incredible” – Kibirige
Photo: RFU Archive
The NatWest Schools Cup Vase competition can sometimes suffer from younger, less talented brother syndrome. Never disparaged, but rarely eulogised, yet it is a competition which has seen the participation of some very talented players over the years.
Danny Care (Prince Henry’s Grammar School, 2004), Manu Tuilagi (John Cleveland College, 2009), and more recently Will Hooley (The Leys, 2012) to name a few, but there is now a “north star” emerging up on Tyneside thanks to this valuable competition.
Zach Kibirige starts for England U20s against France this evening (January 31), and is a player that has generated a lot of excitement in the north east with many voicing high opinions of the back three player, including current Director of Rugby at Newcastle Falcons Dean Richards.
But fast forward almost a year on from when he played a starring role in Yarm School’s dramatic Vase win against Felsted School, and his voices oozes enthusiasm when the topic is brought up.
He recounts: “The experience was amazing. It was great playing rugby with less pressure, not that there wasn’t pressure, but you could relax more playing in school matches.
“Playing at Twickenham with your mates was just absolutely incredible. It was the first time I had been there, let alone played there, so it was quite surreal.
“We had a few hundred people come down from Yarm to support us, which spurred us on when we heard them.
“I would actually say that it was more nerve racking playing in that, than when I made my first team debut for Newcastle, just because all your friends and family are there and you’re playing for them.
“Before playing for Newcastle, those cup matches were everything. They were your sole focus, and our coaches at Yarm helped take the pressure off us, helped us to enjoy it.”
Kibirige has had an injury plagued season so far this year, but he remains confident that with time, he will be able to achieve his ambition of playing in the Aviva Premiership for his boyhood club.
He added: “I’m taking things as it comes. I just need to get more game time under my belt, hopefully I’ll get some opportunities with the U20s (England). I’m confident in my own ability and that if I work hard enough, my opportunity will come.
“I absolutely love playing for Newcastle. I grew up watching them, following their results, going to watch games. So to be playing for them is a dream come true as a local lad.”
With Anthony Watson stepping up to the senior team, it seems Kibirige could be the man to fill the void for the junior world champions.