- Epsom College play Wellington College in Champions Trophy final
- Kick off at 13:00 GMT from Allianz Park
Two giants of schoolboy rugby meet in this week’s Champions Trophy final at Allianz Park with both Epsom College and Wellington College looking to become champions for the first time.
Epsom College arrive with unfinished business. They were losing finalists in 2015, beaten 28-21 by Bedford School, who also knocked them out in the semi-finals in 2016.
The Surrey side have looked impressive this season, beating local rivals St John’s Leatherhead 27-14 in the quarter-finals before overcoming Sussex side Hurstpierpoint College 22-13 in the final four.
Epsom's squad contains 11 players in their final year and coach Paul Burke spoke of their excitement ahead of today’s final.
“A good number of our team have spent their entire schoolboy years playing together and this is the biggest match of their journey. They can’t wait for it,” says Burke.
There have been some hiccups along the way this season with three losses in their regular season fixtures however Burke says those results will only help the team going into today’s match.
“This group has worked particularly hard and they have a very good team spirit. We really have had our backs against the wall in several matches this year but they have showed real determination to pull through.
“Their work rate and endeavour is outstanding but we also have players who can really mix the game up and add real pace.”
Wellington College are a school familiar with national finals but Burke warns that his side shouldn’t be underestimated.
“You can never really write a team like us off. I’m sure it will be a fantastic school rugby spectacle.”
Wellington College rarely underestimate their opposition with analysis as well as strength and conditioning key components of their success according to coach Dan Richards.
“They make sure that they leave no stone unturned,” says Richards.
“The players take it seriously because they want to get the most out of themselves. I think that has really helped when it comes to the big games.
“Every week the players review video footage of their own performances before coming together to discuss the game as a group.
“The boys are sent the games and are encouraged to do as much player-led self-reflection as they can and then we do a weekly meeting where we will go through our performance goals.”
The approach certainly seems to be working.
Convincing wins over Royal Grammar School, Guildford as well as Berkhamsted School led to a tense 19-16 away victory over Bristol Grammar School.
“We have been really proud of how the boys have come through this competition,” says Richards, with enjoyment being a key focus for the group.
“Without having fun this could just become too pressured and it’s important to us that their time playing rugby forms some of their happiest memories of time at Wellington.
“We have worked hard to keep the boys smiling and involved them a lot in the planning of the season so that they can balance their time and enjoy their rugby.”
Whilst Epsom come into this final relatively unfamiliar with finals rugby, many of the Wellington side have experienced this all before, which Richards believes will keep them relaxed today.
“It is a massively exciting occasion for the boys and a lot of these players are familiar with finals rugby which is good, they won’t be surprised by the emotion of the day.”
Both sides arrive at Allianz in fine form and it promises to be a fantastic occasion for all the players as well as the hundreds of supporters who have come to watch their teams perform on the biggest of stages.