It is 200 years since William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran… and kids still follow in his footsteps at Rugby's birthplace

It is 200 years since William Webb Ellis picked up the  ball and ran… and kids still follow in his footsteps at Rugby's birthplace
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November 30, 2023
3 mins read

Rugby School are the busiest team in the 2023 SOCS Daily Mail Schools Trophy for a very special reason this autumn.

A fixture at the Warwickshire school has become one of the most prized as the 200th celebrations continue to mark the deeds of Rugby’s most famous alumnus, William Webb Ellis.

If legend is correct, the young Webb Ellis helped start rugby by picking up the ball in a school football match around 1823.

To commemorate the deed, Rugby School have played all their matches at home on the Close pitch, culminating in a match against a Barbarians XV on December 9.

So far Rugby have racked up 13 games — often playing twice a week — to fit in as many fixtures as possible.

Mike Bayly, the school’s director of rugby, reports that opponents have relished the opportunity to take part in the sequence of matches.

Rugby have beaten Oundle, Marlborough and Uppingham and have pushed some of the Trophy’s top-10 teams close as well.

Bayly said: ‘It’s been a hectic schedule and it has meant we’ve had to have two teams in operation to fulfil the fixtures. It’s brought some great rugby and memorable games. We might have only won three games but we’ve played most of the top schools and have a points deficit of just minus-24 overall.’

They have lost narrowly to Trophy challengers Eton 22-17, former champions Wellington 19-17, and unbeaten local rivals in Bromsgrove, again 22-17.

Another close result came last Saturday when Warwick won 28-27, having been helped to success by the kicking of fly-half Freddie Wallis and an early try from wing Harry Goodrem.

They were without their two England Under 18 contenders in Rob Gaffan and Jake Roberts, who were at a national training camp. Among their best players is Pietro Cecchinato, a back-row forward and the son of the former international and ex-Italy assistant manager, Carlo.

At the top of the table, champions Harrow remain on course to retain the title following a 52-17 win over Trinity College.

They finish their campaign this Saturday at home to Mill Hill and another win — which would be their ninth of the autumn — should keep them ahead of second-placed Ipswich and Brighton College in third.

An early flurry against Trinity put Harrow 21-0 up and their full-back Sam Winters and wing Cameron Knight scored two tries each.

Brighton endured a fluctuating match before overcoming St Joseph’s of Ipswich 36-28. Wing Harry Streak contributed two tries, including a memorable effort which involved some crisp handling.

The Trophy, organised by the schools management system SOCS, is played over the autumn term by more than 140 school teams across England.

Follow this season's competition on the Mail+app - go to mailplus.co.uk for more details.

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