- Tonbridge Juddians are National U17 champions
- They enter the new National U18 Cup this season
- View all the fixtures here
Tonbridge Juddians are no strangers to national success, but the season approaching presents the ultimate challenge for a club whose junior and colts sides have dominated various age grade competitions in recent years.
This year’s new National U18 Cup will see 128 club sides from across the country compete in one competition for the first time.
As winners of last year’s National U17 Competition the head of Tonbridge’s Academy Gareth Withers says they will be going into this year’s tournament with plenty of confidence.
“It is a massive opportunity for us and I think it is a great idea bringing this competition together,” said Withers, who is assisted by coaches Paul Dawson and Howard Nudge.
“Most of our squad will be made up of the team from last year but we know there will be a lot of other good sides in this competition.”
Tonbridge will meet Dartfordians in Round One with all fixtures required to be played by 14th January.
“I believe we are the only club who have won both old Colts Cup, run by EMRU, as well as the U17 National Competition and we’re very proud of that,” adds Withers.
Ones to watch
In recent years the club has established the Tonbridge Juddians Academy, covering players aged 16-18 and Withers says the system has been a big part of their success at that age group.
“We have over 100 active players as well as brilliant facilities, coaches and physios so that has made a big difference.”
While many of Tonbridge’s players have gone onto play at a higher level, not least for the club’s 1st XV who earned promotion to National Two South at the end of last season, Withers thinks there are two players in particular to keep an eye out for.
Alfie Scopes, who also has represented England at discus and Whitgift School winger Ade Lipede will be real threats in the competition, according to Withers.
“We’re looking forward to getting started, hopefully playing against some clubs that we haven’t met before and expose our players to a new level of rugby.”
The new Under 18 Competition, which replaces the current national competitions for 2017-18, supports the transition of players from Age Grade into Adult rugby, aligns with the playing calendar for 2017-18 and encourages greater participation from clubs currently in non-represented areas of the country.
The 128-team under 18 competition is jointly delivered and promoted by EMRU and RFU.