Reigning champions Trent College open the defence of their Under 18 Natwest Vase title when they welcome Loughborough Endowed Schools to Long Eaton today (Thursday 14 September).
Trent College lifted the Vase for the second time in four years at Twickenham in March, running six tries past Royal Latin School to claim a 43-7 victory and become the first school to win the trophy twice since it was first contested in its current guise in 2000.
No fewer than eight of that Vase-winning squad, including brothers Ben and George Dickinson who both started the final, will feature once again this year. Meanwhile Harry Finney, younger brother of last season’s trophy lifting fly-half, George, also steps up to the U18s and flanker Ethan Benstead takes over the mantle of First XV captain for the new season.
But, Loughborough Endowed Schools will provide a tough test. When the teams met last season Trent College ran out narrow 10-7 winners, and with a good pre-season behind them the Leicestershire school will be keen to stop their East Midlands rivals at the first Vase hurdle.
In the year the school celebrates its 150th anniversary, Steve McGinnis, Trent College Head Coach, said: “Retaining eight of last year’s squad certainly helps, but it’s no guarantee of success. This is a new group and a new challenge that starts against Loughborough.
“We have moved on from last year’s success and focussed straight away on moulding this group of talented players. We have a strong group that will want to drive and compete for each other, raise standards across the board and get it right from the start.
“They do have it all to prove after last year, but are a new animal and need to find their own way. I’m confident they can do this and have the potential to go all the way. But, and it’s the old cliché, we can only take it one game at a time.”
The Natwest Cup and Vase is the biggest schools rugby tournament in the world, with over 1,000 entries in the U18 and U15 competitions from across England, Wales and the Isle of Man.W