World Cup winner backs Champion Schools finalists
Former England and British Lions rugby union star Matt Dawson has sent a good luck message to his old school, Royal Grammar School High Wycombe, as their Year 7 boys prepare to walk out at Wembley Stadium on Saturday August 24 to compete in the Rugby League Champion Schools final.
RGS High Wycombe take on Castleford Academy in the Year 7 Boys final played ahead of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final between Hull FC and Wigan Warriors and Dawson, a rugby union world cup winner with England in 2003, says it is great to see his school make the final.
“It's been a while since I've been asked to write a good luck message for my old school but if I'm truly honest, doing it for the Rugby League team was not the one I thought would be next,” said Dawson.
“I remember RGS being so competitive is a multitude of sports, rowing, cricket, basketball, hockey and of course rugby union, but back in the old days the closest we got to league was in pre-season training to improve our continuity skills. Mind you 20 years is a heck of a long time in playing and coaching sport.”
RGS High Wycombe will become only the second ‘southern’ team to appear in the traditional Wembley curtain-raiser, after Surrey’s Howard of Effingham’s debuted there in the 2012 final beating Castleford 24-22, and RGS will be hoping to emulate that result.
“To reach the final is in itself an incredible achievement with only one other southern school making the Wembley final before,” said Dawson, who was born in Birkenhead but brought up in Buckinghamshire.
“However if the culture is the same as when I studied there, a final won’t be enough. Castleford Academy have a great Rugby League pedigree but in finals those who embrace pressure the best tend to be victorious. So why not RGS High Wycombe?
“It could well be the poshest name on the trophy but to win such a prestigious cup in such a tough, uncompromising competition would show what a great national sport Rugby League is. Go well lads.”
RGS High Wycombe is a state school who were introduced to Rugby League six years ago following the arrival of Liam Doubler as Director of Sport and PE. Welshman Doubler played league for Hemel Stags and lost no time in introducing it to his pupils.
“I love Rugby League,” he said, “and I thought the boys could learn a lot from it.”
His Year 7 team won the regional title before progressing into the national play-offs. The big test came in the quarter-finals when they faced at trip to Yorkshire to take on Brooksbank School from Elland, near Halifax.
“They were a very good team and it was a fantastic game of rugby,” said Doubler. “We were leading quite convincingly at half time and they really came back into it, it could have gone either way.
“Then we scored at the end, it was a great win but what summed it up for me was the referee coming over after the game and saying, ‘I can’t believe it, you guys have played some fantastic Rugby League’. It was recognition that we weren’t just a rugby union side.”
It was off to Yorkshire again for the semi-finals but this time a convincing 52-16 win over Dowdales of Cumbria put them into the final at Wembley.
“We’re really looking forward to the challenge,” he added. “If our boys play like we know they can, it will be a good game.”
Tickets for the 2013 Tetley’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday August 24 are priced from just £21 and fans can also purchase their tickets directly from the RFL via www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk or by calling the RFL Ticket Office on 0844 856 1113.