The National Schools 7's

The National Schools 7's

The National Schools Sevens is a rugby union sevens tournament, held in association with Rosslyn Park F.C., that has evolved into the world's largest rugby tournament with some 7,000 boys and girls aged 13 - 19 competing annually. The event was first held in 1939, and has been held every year since, becoming one of the oldest continuous tournaments for schools. The tournament accepts sides from all over the world and has recently had teams from Canada, China, Guernsey, Hungary, India, Jersey, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Ukraine as well as England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Format

The play for the first 4 days is centred around Wimbledon Common where there are 24 pitches. But the last day (Friday) the Open and Girls Tournaments remaining knockout rounds are held at Rosslyn Park. All the pitches, bar Rosslyn Park, are close together and there is just a short walk between them all.

Each Tournament has a similar format of Group matches on the first day with possibly a knockout round or two. The second day is for the knockout rounds, which culminate in the relevant Final. The Junior Tournament and the Preparatory Tournament (both under 13s) start on the Monday, the Festival (one term rugby schools) starts Tuesday, the Colts (under 16s) Wednesday, and the Girls Tournament and Open Tournament (both under 18s) start on Thursday.

History

Originally it was a knock-out competition for English public schools but as interest grew it was extended to include grammar, comprehensive and preparatory schools. The format was also changed into pool groups so that no U16 or girls side played fewer than three matches and no U18 boys side fewer than four. Almost all the founding 16 schools compete to this day and, although it remains an invitation event, no eligible school would be refused entry upon application. In 1956 the Preparatory Schools competition was started for IAPS schools and in 1973 the Juniors (U13s) were held for the first time. In March 1997, a new competition was introduced for the U16s and it has been the policy during the past few years to invite schools from overseas who may be touring the UK to play in the tournament. Each year the number of schools applying increases. In 1998 the first girls (U18) competition was inaugurated, and a recent popular inclusion has been a sevens challenge match between Old Boys RFCs, the first of which was between Ampleforth and Millfield, who between them have won the senior tournaments a remarkable 21 times.

A rugby nursery for international players

A significant number of English and Welsh Internationals tasted competitive rugby for the first time at the tournament. Eight of the England squad who were victorious at the 1993 Rugby World Cup Sevens at Murrayfield and most of the 2003 Rugby World Cup winning squad had played for their schools at Rosslyn Park. Many senior rugby coaches and captains of industry in the UK have played in the tournament. Gareth Edwards was a member of the 1966 winning Millfield team. In 1967 Keith Jarrett played for Monmouth School and, just a month later, scored 19 points for Wales against England. Rob Andrew and Rory Underwood played in the same Barnard Castle side, whilst more recently Simon Danielli, victorious with Cheltenham College in the 1998 Festival, was ever present in Scotland's 2003 world cup campaign and James Simpson-Daniel (Sedbergh, Open Winners in 1999) continues to impress on the international stage. World Cup winner Iain Balshaw shone in this tournament for Stonyhurst College who had a remarkable season in 1996 winning all of the tournaments in which they entered.

It is true to say that most English and Welsh internationals have played in the Tournament for their school at some point. Although the Girls Tournament only started in 1998 there has been a least one full Women's International (Michaela Staniford, England) to have played in it already. Michaela played for the winning Rickmansworth side in 2003 and became the youngest Women's England International two years later, aged 18.

Recent tournaments

In recent years Millfield have enjoyed the most success in the 'Open' although in 2004, Ivybridge Community College pipped them in the final, just 14 years after the school took up the sport. After Ben Gollings (currently world record points scorer on the IRB 7s circuit) took his Canford side to success in the 1997 Festival, the trophy was won either by Wellington or Cheltenham until Colston's broke the trend in 2006. The 2003 final seemed certain to be a record five on the trot for Wellington with their impressive international line-up but Cheltenham turned round a 0-12 half time score to win. The next year Cheltenham won it again after beating Taunton and then yet another win followed for Wellington College in 2005. Colstons won in 2006 (despite normally playing in the Open) and King's College, Taunton in 2007 after going so close in previous years.

Colston's Collegiate School, Bristol made history in 2007 by becoming the first school ever to win both the Open (U18 Boys) and the Girls (U18) tournaments. Benenden School, in only their first season of rugby pushed them all the way in the final before eventually losing 19 - 17. Colston's girls could not repeat it in 2008, falling to East Norfolk 6th Form College in a high quality game and Sedbergh won the Open Tournament.

The last day of the Tournament was broadcast live over the internet and it was watched in over 30 countries. [http://www.ns7.co.uk]

ee also

*Sanix World Rugby Youth Tournament


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