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The World Schools Festival is just a week away: What you need to know

By Will Stace
The World Schools Festival is just over a week away

We are just a few days away from the first kick off at the Pattana Sports Resort in Thailand for the World Schools Festival – and here is everything you need to know.

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Seven teams have been announced and after a late change, the 8th and final team is set to be announced soon. Those already confirmed to take part are:

Grey College (South Africa)
St Michael’s College (Ireland)
Millfield School (England)
Cardiff & Vale College (Wales)
Trinity School (England)
Sedbergh School (England)
Hamilton Boys’ High School (New Zealand)

The tournament starts on the 13th of December with the quarter-finals, and will end on the 17th. With four pieces of silverware to be won, the competition will go until the final whistle of the cup final, which will see one side crowned champions of the schools’ game.

Meet the teams:

Millfield School (England)
Millfield are one of the most recognisable teams in English schoolboy rugby. For years the blue, green and red striped team have dominated the game, winning schools cups, daily mail trophies, and their latest achievement, going back to back in the St Joseph’s College National Schools Rugby Festival in October, beating fellow World Schools Festival competitor Trinity in the final. The festival format is where this team shines, conceding one try over two days of rugby at St Joseph’s College was something to behold. They travel to Thailand with hopes of continuing some of their excellent form and proving their class on the biggest stage of them all.

Cardiff & Vale College (Wales)
The Welsh Schools and Colleges Cup winners from 2021 have been named as a side in the World Schools Festival. New to the schoolboy scene, Cardiff & Vale set up their rugby programme alongside Cardiff RFC a few years back, have turned some heads. With a style of rugby impressive to watch as well as a side filled with huge confidence, they have found themselves sitting second in the Welsh Schools league, with Coleg Sir Gar out in front. Recent form shows a side ready to take it to the world’s best, having beaten a strong Whitchurch HS team 50-18 away from home. Undoubtedly, the World Schools Festival will be the biggest test the college has ever faced, but it will not be surprising if they travel to Thailand and
come back with the world wanting to watch more of the team from Cardiff.

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Grey College (South Africa)
The favorites for this year’s tournament is the side from South Africa – Grey College, with good reason too. Giants of schoolboy rugby and a team closely followed by thousands. Since 1855, Grey College has produced 58 international players, 45 of those being Springboks – they know a thing or two about creating the world’s best players.

Usually, it is easy to speak about form for Grey College with multiple unbeaten seasons in the school’s history, but this year, it hasn’t been more of the same. In their most recent fixture they took on Paul Roos in a highly anticipated affair. Grey lost 34-19 in a historic first win for the Paul Roos against Grey since 2015, so the team from South Africa will go to the World Schools Festival with hopes of
laying down the law and retaining the world crown.

Sedbergh School (England)
The ‘Men in Brown’ from northern England are a force to be reckoned with. They wear a badge and a shirt which has been unbeaten and untouchable for many seasons in schoolboy rugby history. This season has been more of the same: a tough-fought victory against Blackrock in Ireland, as well as seeing off Wellington College more recently, they have looked in top form, as we are used to seeing
from the browns. However, the only side to turn over Sedbergh this year, was Denstone in the Daily Mail Trophy, potentially meaning the trophy won’t go to Sedbergh come the end of the fixture list. But since that day in early November, we have seen a new Sedbergh side, one with sights set on lifting silverware in Thailand, and potentially this side could put their name on the World School scene.

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World Schools Festival
Sedbergh School in action against Blackrock College (Photo by Matthew Harbour)

Hamilton Boys’ High School (New Zealand)
The school with the best record in New Zealand schoolboy history. Also recent Top 4 winners in New Zealand, after seeing off Napier Boys’ High in the final. The quality shown on the pitch was a mature side that played with professionalism. Alumni full of All Blacks and professional rugby players, putting on that Hamilton Boys’ shirt means you step into the footsteps legends once took. This side is full of prospects, and individually they will be one to watch for Ian Foster, as the future of New Zealand rugby could potentially be found within the Hamilton Boys’ setup. The maroon and black side are one that is feared and will join Grey in being one of the favourites for the crown on December 17th. Hamilton Boys’ will want to show what they can do, and bring the iconic traditional haka to the World Schools Festival stage.

New Zealand rugby
Payton Spencer, son of Carlos, in action for Hamilton Boys’ High

Trinity School (England)
Any side that is retaining the Schools Cup trophy in England, has a point to prove the following season. For Trinity, they have pushed themselves to the next level, going deep into the Schools Cup once again (they have a Quarter Final vs Harrow on December 8th, just a few days before they set off for Thailand) Outside of festival rugby, they have been unbeaten, a testament to how well this side plays the 70-minutes. The St Joseph’s College Festival, as mentioned earlier, showed them come up short to an experienced Millfield side in the trophy final, in their debut tournament, an achievement in itself. Trinity will be the dark horses to the World Schools Festival, but if they can perform under pressure at Twickenham Stadium in the cold weather, there is no reason why Trinity cannot go the full way to becoming World Schools Festival champions.

St Michael’s College (Ireland)
The school from Dublin, with a high reputation for its rugby programme due to the elite set of old Boys which have gone on to professional pathways. In the last few seasons it has been Leinster and Ireland who have taken on a couple of the St Michael’s boys. In recent history they have won the Leinster Schools Senior cup in 2019 and this season have set familiar levels to their rugby game. Head
Coach Andy Skehan says that the lads that will travel to Thailand will take pride in representing the college 12,000 kilometres from home. With the Leinster cup starting in late January, the World Schools Festival gives St Michael’s College a chance to test themselves against arguably tougher opponents, and show the incredible level that Irish Schoolboy Rugby sets, to thousands of viewers.

PRO14 Leinster
James Ryan /PA

The Draw:

All teams have been drawn into Quarter Final fixtures and these are as followed:
Grey College (South Africa) v Trinity College (England)
St Michael’s College (Ireland) v Cardiff & Vale College (Wales)

Winners of these will face each other.

Sedbergh School (England) v Millfield School (England)
Hamilton Boys’ High School (New Zealand) v TBC

And the winners of these will also come together in the semi-finals.

It’s only days away from the World Schools Festival, and you can watch it all live on the RugbyPass youtube channel on the 13th, 15th and the 17th of December.

More information on times will be released in due course.

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