‘Whatever their achievements in other pursuits, the chief pride and glory of Bedfordians lies in their rugby.’
Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (1934)
Bedford School rugby has a long and impressive history.
Records suggest that the first team to represent the school took the field in 1870, and the familiar red jerseys of the 1st XV are mentioned as far back as 1881. Altogether, 18 Internationals, 4 British Lions, 30 Barbarians, 29 Oxbridge Blues and countless Schoolboy Internationals, have been produced by Bedford School.
The XV have recorded 33 unbeaten seasons on a circuit which includes schools such as Dulwich, Harrow, Oundle, Tonbridge, Uppingham, Wellington, Warwick and Rugby. Most recently, the 2015 XV became only the fifth team in the history of the school to win every game, and the XV were undefeated at home between 2007 and 2011. The unbeaten season for this team also included victory in the Champions Trophy final. In the 2016 season, the XV couldn’t quite emulate the success of the previous year but still had an impressive season losing just two matches on their regular circuit, which included a narrow loss in the Champions Trophy final. The Under 15 team have been Daily Mail National champions in 1995 and 2006. The National Sevens Festival title was won in March 2014 and on two other occasions prior to that. In addition to this, in recent seasons the Under 16s were finalists in 2008 and reached the last 16 in 2015 and 2016. The Senior VII were semi-finalists in 2011 and 2013, reached the last 16 in 2012 and the final in 2016.
Many recent Old Bedfordians have made a mark in professional Rugby, notably David Callam (Edinburgh and Scotland) – Captain of the unbeaten 2000 XV and Will Skinner (England XV, England Sevens, and former Captain of England Saxons and Harlequins) – Captain of the 2001 team. Joe Burton (Wasps), a member of the 2005 and 2006 teams, and James Ingle (Northampton Saints) Captain of the 2008 XV, have recently played in the Premiership. Jamie Elliott (1st XV 2009 and 2010) is currently occupying a regular place on the wing in the Northampton Saints team. Oliver Lyons, captain of the 2013 XV and the successful 2014 Sevens team, has now made the decision to study at Bristol University having been on a full-time contract with Munster. George Furbank (1st XV 2014 and 2015) is currently at Northampton Saints on a full-time academy contract. He will be joined by Fraser Dingwall and Fraser Strachan in 2017.
Rugby is the major game for the autumn term, with practice on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons and fixtures on a Saturday. The school runs five senior teams, four Colts teams, four Under 15 teams and five Under 14 teams, and there is an opportunity for all boys to play at a suitable level. Professional coaches are employed to assist the school staff, with the over-riding emphasis placed on individual skill development and enjoyment at all levels. The 1st XV players also take a ‘Position Specific Session’ with all the other age groups every week of the autumn term.
Sevens is played as an extra-curricular sport in the spring term at Under 14, Under 15, Colts and Senior level. In the last few seasons, several regional and national tournaments have been won by all age groups. The 2017 team won three out of the six tournaments they entered and were narrowly beaten in the semi-final of the National Cup competition at Rosslyn Park.
Mr James Hinkins (Director of Rugby and Physical Education Department) along with conditioning expert John Rudgard, design and monitor the conditioning programmes and testing of all the boys. Medical back-up is provided by Sports Therapist Julie Dass and her team.
Representative rugby is encouraged and supported, and during recent seasons alone, there have been numerous East Midlands and Midlands players, as well as 18 schoolboy Internationals, the most recent being Fraser Dingwall who played for Scotland at U18 and U16, which he captained, and Fraser Strachan, who played for Scotland U18. In 2017, both Fraser Dingwall and Fraser Strachan played for England U18 in a successful international series.
Tours occur on a regular basis, the most recent being the 1st XV and Under 16 squads who visited Canada and Seattle during July 2016. The next tour is scheduled for 2019, all boys who come through the school from the Fourth Form will have an opportunity to go on a rugby tour.
In Partnership with Northampton Saints
The link with Northampton Saints continues to go from strength to strength with close involvement taking place between the Club and the school in a number of areas. Several boys have signed full-time contracts with the club during recent years, and Jamie Elliott is now in the 1st team squad at the club, and George Furbank signed a full Academy contract at the end of the 2015 season. Several current 1st XV players are part of the Junior Saints (Under 18) Academy squad. There are also players in each age group who attend the EPDG and DPP sessions at the Saints.