A feast of top-quality youth rugby will be on display this weekend when St Joseph’s College hosts its annual under-18s National Schools Rugby Festival, tomorrow and Sunday.

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Last season’s victors, Dulwich, will be among the favourites to lift the crown again, although they will face competition from the likes of Millfield, John Fisher School and the hosts, who according to director of sport, Mark Patterson, will be “dark horses”.

Three new teams will also be taking part for the first time this year; Belfast Royal Academy, Whitchurch (Wales) and Merchiston Castle School (Edinburgh).

Patterson said: It’s so hard to predict at this stage as the season is still so young, but the likes of Milfield and John Fisher will be strong, while Dulwich won last year’s tournament and the Daily Mail RBS Under 18 Cup, earlier this year, which is the holy grail.

“As for ourselves, we face Brighton, Abingdon and Belfast in Group 1 and while all three are eminently winnable, they should all prove to be tight games.

“Our main aim, first and foremost is to finish first or second in our group and qualify for the elimination stages on the Sunday. We won the tournament two years ago and I would say we were dark horses this time.”

St Jo’s are in the middle of a transitional period but have already won two friendly matches and are safely through to the second round of the prestigious Daily Mail Cup, a competition that as mentioned earlier, is one of their biggest targets.

“We have started really well but it is a re-building process at the moment as we have lost 12 upper sixth-form students from last year’s under-18s,” said Patterson.

“But we have a lot of talented lads with quality and last year’s under-16s, now the under-17s, won the Rosslyn Park National Sevens last season while the new under-16s had a fantastic run.”

Admission is free to the event which is being held tomorrow and Sunday at the Belstead Road venue. GAAMES ARE HELD BETWEEN 9AM AND 4.30PM

Group 1: Abingdon School, Belfast Royal Academy, Brighton College, ST JO’S.

Group 2: Bedford School, Merchiston Castle, Stamford School, Stowe School.

Group 3: Dulwich College (defending champions), Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, RGS, High Wycombe, Whitchurch High School.

Group 4: John Fisher School, Millfield School, Portsmouth Grammar School, RGS, Newcastle

First and second-placed finishers from day one’s groups go through to day’s two Cup groups. Third and fourth-place teams go through to the Plate groups on day two.

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