The sporting landscape in the independent schools' sector has changed appreciably in recent years with the advent of greater pupil-led choice. Combine this with some outstanding sports facilities and it is easy to see why the more traditional winter sports like rugby may struggle for numbers at schools such as ours. But at the Haberdashers’ Aske's Boys' School, the value of rugby in terms of its teaching of the benefits of team work, the importance of discipline and respect for officials and fellow players ensures that the sport maintains its standing as a priority sport in the autumn term here.
In Year 7, every boy will be taught rugby up until the October half term. Upon arrival at the school in September, the Games department will identify players with previous playing experience and/or playing potential and these boys will make up an early Under 12 rugby squad. The remaining boys will stay with their house group in games and be taught the basics of the game in a controlled, safe and progressive manner. With some boys continuing to play a non-contact version of the game if applicable.
Every year, we discover boys with genuine rugby potential from within these house groups and these individuals will then be encouraged to join the squad. We field four school rugby teams at Under 12 with the A and B teams playing generally on a Saturday morning and the C and D`s during the Friday games afternoon. Hockey is available to those boys who do not enjoy rugby from the October half term.
In Year 8, the School works particularly hard towards ensuring that the rugby squad fully appreciates the benefits of playing rugby - both on and off the field - with our annual trip to South West France and various other opportunities for personal and sporting development (Rosslyn Park 7s, County tournaments). The sport can be played over two terms with the addition of Rugby 7s in the Spring term) and the boys begin to gain a deeper understanding of the culture of rugby.
At Year 9, each pupil is offered a free choice in determining his games options for the year. Football, as one might expect at a North London school, is also very popular. That said, the boys who remain playing rugby are enthusiastic and hugely committed and we have seen some significant advances in the development of our Middle School teams with such a focused group of players and coaches.
As it stands, we run one rugby team per age group at Under 14 and Under 15 with the Under 16 group amalgamating with the seniors in fielding two senior teams. These squads play every Saturday and love their rugby. We enter the national competitions at Under 15 and Under 18 age groups and play Rugby 7s in the spring term at some of the most prestigious events in the country (Rosslyn Park, Berkhamsted Under 13 etc) and host a week long Sevens Festival which is attracting wide ranging interest.
Although the sport has seen some major changes to its fixture card and organisation over recent years, rugby remains an integral part of our sporting provision here at Haberdashers’.