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From its humble beginning in 1939, the Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens has evolved into the world’s largest school rugby tournament with some 7,000 boys and girls aged 13 – 18 competing annually.
Since 2011, a title sponsor has been involved in the event, in the shape of HSBC, who are proud to be supporting such a prestigious schools rugby tournament.
From its humble beginning in 1939, it has been held every year since, becoming one of the oldest continuous tournaments.
Originally it was a knock-out competition for 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 “junior” school played fewer than three matches and no “senior” school fewer then 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 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 popular inclusion last year was a sevens match between the Old Boys RFCs of Ampleforth and Millfield, who between them have won the senior tournaments a staggering 16 times.
A significant number of current and recent England internationals tasted competitive rugby for the first time at the tournament, and eight of the England squad who were victorious at the 1993 Rugby World Cup Sevens at Murrayfield 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. More recently Rob Andrew and Rory Underwood played in the same Barnard Castle side.
Will Carling represented his preparatory school for two consecutive years and 1996 saw the Queen’s grandson Peter Phillips (pictured left) play for Gordonstoun. Lawrence Dallaglio, Phil de Glanville (both of them England captains), Tim Rodber, Chris Sheasby, Ade Adebayo and Neil Back are just some England stars who have played in the tournament.
The trophies are presented by current and past international players, along with rugby commentators and the sponsor. In 2000 the tournament was visited by Kate Hoey MP, the Minister of Sport, and Jeffrey Addison, President of the Rugby Football Union, along with, among others, rugby celebrities Martin Bayfield and John Inverdale.
For further information on the history of the tournament, photo archives and much much more visit the dedicated RPNS7s website