- Warwick School relishing the challenge of Durham in the U18 Cup semi-final
- Trent College vying with QEH Bristol for their debut at Twickenham in the U18 Vase
Photo: RFU Archive
It will be Midlands against the North in the first NatWest Schools U18 Cup semi-final at Allianz Park on Saturday (March 8) when Durham School take on Warwick School (12pm).
Warwick won the competition in 2007 when they edged out Barnard Castle School in the final and Mark Nasey, their head of rugby, is relishing playing on the 4G surface at Saracens’ home ground.
”We’re looking forward to giving it a good go on a good surface at Allianz Park. For me, these pitches are the way forward in Britain, particularly at the high end of competitions like this,” Nasey said.
“We don’t know a lot about Durham, but I’m sure they’ll pose us plenty of challenges. We saw them play Wilmslow last year where they were unlucky to lose. But there is not much crossover in fixture lists so it’s hard to know what to expect.
“The tight matches we’ve played in this year and won mean that the boys grow in confidence as games go on, but it certainly hasn’t done my heart and grey hairs any good. We’d much rather lead from the front.”
Meanwhile Durham School’s head of rugby Ben Mason believes the loss of injured captain Ruari Bell earlier in the season has helped pull the team together.
He said: ”We lost our captain Ruari before the Stonyhurst game, so everyone has had to pull together and step up as he is someone the lads have looked up to since year seven.
“But other than that we’re in good shape, we had a hit out against the Newcastle Falcons academy, which helped keep the contact skils up, so we’re very grateful for that.
“With schoolboy rugby players, they have a funny way of showing their emotions, but there is definitely excitement and the boys are looking forward to playing at Allianz Park. They just want to get there and get on with it now.
“We’ve got a couple of buses making the long trip. They’ll be leaving the school at 5am, so we’re absolutely chuffed they’re coming to support us. We also have an old boys community in the city that will hopefully come support as well.
“Warwick are a much bigger school than we are, so the laws of average say that they will be a good side with some big units.
“But at this stage of the tournament, and on the fast surface at Allianz Park, I’m sure both sides will be looking to play a similar style of rugby.”
In the NatWest Schools U18 Vase both Trent College and QEH Bristol will be in unchartered territory when they take to the synthetic turf at Allianz Park for their semi-final on Sunday March 9 (2.15pm).
Both teams will be playing on a 4G pitch for the first time but they will also be one step away from reaching a final at Twickenham Stadium for the first time.
Director of Sport at Trent College Adam Benstead is hoping things won’t be made harder before they even make it to North London as they wait to hear on whether hooker James Fish is called up for England’s international with Scotland.
He said: ”We only have one issue and that’s whether England take any players from us, other than that everyone’s fit and looking forward to it.
“We came through a tough quarter-final in appalling conditions against Bishop Vesey’s, so it will be nice to play on a fast 4G pitch which will suit our style.
“It’s great that the match is being played at Allianz Park. The boys are excited to play at a Premiership ground, and it means that win or lose their efforts have been valued.
“It will be like a final. We’ll have a couple of coaches coming down along with teachers and parents, which will be nice as we’ve had to play some tough away games this season without any support.”
Watch the semi-finals streamed live at rfu.com/natwestschoolscup
Semi-finals draw in full – Allianz Park
U18 Cup – Saturday, March 8
Durham School v Warwick School: 12pm
RGS High Wycombe v Dulwich College: 2.15pm
U18s Vase – Sunday, March 9
Wirral Grammar School v Exeter College: 12pm
QEH Bristol v Trent College: 2.15pm
U15 Cup – Saturday, March 15
Whitgift School v QEGS Wakefield: 12pm
Warwick School v Wellington College: 2pm
U15 Vase – Sunday, March 16
Altrincham Grammar School v Lymm High School: 12pm
Graveney School v St George’s College, Weybridge: 2pm
Finals – Twickenham Stadium (Saturday, March 29)
U15 Vase: 11am
U15 Cup: 12.30pm
U18 Vase: 2pm
U18 Cup: 3.40pm
Entry is free
For more information, go to: www.rfu.com/natwestschoolscup, www.facebook.com/natwestrugby and twitter.com/SchoolsCup