In the past, school 1st XVs were groups of amateur
Rugby players-cum-pupils coming together to play Rugby, in large part out of simple enjoyment of the sport.
I am not saying that the enjoyment has been lost from the game at this same level, however the notion that all school Rugby players are purely amateur
(i.e. playing for the love of the game) is becoming less and less of a reality School Rugby: Professional.
What school sport at first team level is becoming, and what rugby at this level has largely already become,
is a bunch of élite and professional academy Rugby players competing against each other for the places in schools,
who are themselves competing against one another essentially to ‘buy’ in players under the guise of scholarships and bursaries.
This is, of course, only the case in certain instances and to varying degrees.
There are schools that will effectively buy in a entire first team of scholars. Take for example Hailybury,
who took on ten Sixth Form Rugby scholars in their first team this year. There are others that only have one or two, such as Oundle,
and there are those few that have none. For some this ethos of bringing in élite players at Sixth Form is highly appealing;
given that nowadays, school sport being played to the highest possible standard – what is not to like in the availability of ready-to-play talent?
For others, the fallout of this practice is that those being bought into a school at sixth form are essentially depriving those who have been at the school all along of a chance to play in the first team.
For them, the thought of any people being bought in at Sixth Form just to go straight into a first team is results-driven and oblivious to the argument for rewarding loyalty.
However, there are other, arguably more nuanced, reasons for people advocating the use of Sixth
Form scholars and those being opposed to the idea School Rugby: Professional.
Firstly, those in favour of bringing in swathes of scholars to make up effectively an entire team are presumably this way inclined primarily
in order to elevate the quality of their own school team – why else would they do it if not to win more games?
That being said, it is hardly a nuanced approach to bring in more players of higher quality in order to become a better team, but what does a better team really mean?
Some favourable score lines that look good on a website and sound good when giving a brief rundown of the season?
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