‘A DREAM come true’ – teams from schools and colleges around the world played on the hallowed turf where rugby football was born 200 years ago at an international under-18s Rugby Sevens tournament last weekend.
Hundreds of spectators converged on Rugby School to watch 20 teams from 11 countries battle for the title.
A key event of the school’s year-long bicentennial celebrations of the game, the tournament drew spectators from across the world, with teams from as far away as Chile, Japan and New Zealand bringing supporters.
On Saturday, former England captain Martin Johnson met all the teams, discussing tactics and sharing stories from his career.
Different styles of rugby from Northern and Southern hemispheres blended, with some Aussie rules skills on show from the teams from Australia and New Zealand.
A highlight of both days was an impressive and intimidating Haka by the team from Nelson College in New Zealand.
The final on Sunday became a South Africa vs Ireland match, with Michael House from Kwazulu-Natal facing Blackrock College of Dublin.
Both teams showed no sign of weariness following multiple games of rugby throughout the weekend and put their all into winning. Michael House ultimately triumphed despite two yellow cards, and the reaction of the team and their traveling supporters showed that to win this tournament, at the birthplace of the game, meant everything.
Michael House head coach James Fleming said: “It’s a dream come true to play at the birthplace of the game. Rugby has been a big part of our lives, it is my country’s main sport and it’s been a big part of my life all my life.
“To come here and play at Rugby School – I couldn’t have asked for anything better for the boys in the team – to be able to come here, see the buildings, see the field and soak it all up, is unbelievable.
“I am really chuffed for the boys that they stuck it out and scored the last try to get ahead – I couldn’t be happier.”
Peter Green, Executive Head Master of Rugby School, said: “This weekend’s Sevens tournament has been spectacular. Not just in the world-class standard of sport on display and the hundreds of supporters from across the world, but as a fine example of what the sport of rugby does when it brings people together.
“Throughout the weekend, the exchange of different cultures has been incredible; from New Zealanders sharing their pre match rituals with the Chilean team, or the team from Waseda School in Japan enthusiastically showing their support for the teams in the final, it has been a learning experience for everyone.
“This tournament has meant a lot to all those who participated, and I’m grateful to the team at Rugby School who worked so hard to make it happen, as well as all the teams who travelled, some great distance, to join us. It will live long in the memory and was a fitting way to bring people together to celebrate the impact the game of rugby has had across the world.”