- Durham School kick off the NatWest Schools Cup U18 semi-finals against Warwick
- Wirral Grammar face Exeter College in the U18 Vase semis
Durham School’s head of rugby Ben Mason believes that the loss of captain Ruari Bell to injury earlier this season has helped to galvanise his team.
Durham have reached the semi-finals of the NatWest Schools U18 Cup in Bell’s absence and they face Warwick School in the opening semi-final at Allianz Park on Saturday, March 8 (12pm) for a place in the final at Twickenham Stadium on March 29.
“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,” Mason said.
“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 and 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.”
Four educational institutions that in normal circumstances would never meet on the rugby pitch such is their vastly different fixture list, will do precisely that at Allianz Park this Sunday for the NatWest Cup U18 Vase semi-finals.
In the NatWest Schools U18 Vase, a grammar school and a college from two opposite ends of the country, and with very contrasting cultures and traditions, will meet for the first semi-final on Sunday, March 9 (12pm) when Exeter College take on Wirral Grammar School for Boys.
Neither of the two is new in terms of experience to the latter stages of the Schools Cup, however. Exeter College won the U18 Cup when they beat St. Peter’s York in 2005, while Wirral Grammar reached the Vase semi-final in 2012 when they were soundly beaten by The Leys School.
That humbling defeat has served as a source of motivation according to Director of Sport at Wirral Grammar, Phil Crowley.
”We’re very excited. We reached this stage two years ago and were well beaten, so we’re determined that won’t happen again,” Crowley said.
“We’ve had some very tough games against Crossley Heath, Altrincham Grammar and Sandbach along the way, which will hopefully put us in a good place for what will be another tough game.
“It’s fantastic that it’s being played at a Premiership ground. Hats off to the organisers, it will give the boys a piece of the big time.”
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