This is a massive week for local rugby, with three teams in the quarter-finals of the Daily Mail/RBS Cup, the prestigious national schools competition.
Whitgift won last year’s under-18s final at Twickenham, and their first XV faces a trek down to Plymouth College on Wednesday in defence of their title.
The squad includes Eliot Daly, the 18-year-old outside centre who has already made a senior debut for Wasps and who played in England under-20s’ victory over Wales at the weekend.
The team is captained by scrum half Tom Nicholls, who earlier this season made his debut for the Wasps A side, and also includes several others who played in last year’s final, such as flying backs James Canty and Chris Crane.
A new member of the Whitgift 1st XV squad this season has been lower sixth former Stacey Wright, who like his father, former Palace, Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright, is a big presence on the pitch.
Stacey Wright is an imposing prop forward, and his presence in the side has seen his father on the touchline for key matches this season, although Wright junior is a doubt for Wednesday’s game due to an ankle injury.
After a faltering start to the season as the team everyone wants to beat, Whitgift now have a record of 14 wins and 3 defeats, including 64-0 over St Olave’s Grammar from Kent in the sixth round, and 37-5 against St Benedicts in the previous round.
Two seasons ago, John Fisher were desperately unlucky not to make the final of the Daily Mail Cup at under-18 level, going out in the semi-final on penalty kicks. This year, though, they have a new generation of players in the under-15 competition.
After beating St Joseph’s College, Ipswich, 21-20 in the previous round last month, Fisher now face the daunting prospect of a Daily Mail Cup quarter-final against RGS High Wycombe, a side that put more than 70 points past them in the opening game of the season.
Lead by Keiran Treadwell, who has played at local clubs Chipstead, Warlingham and is now at Rosslyn Park, Fisher had a morale-boosting run-out against Wallington 10 days ago. But the Wycombe team could be a different proposition.
Whitgift’s under-15s, too, are in the cup quarter-finals, having sneaked past Dulwich College in the previous round after a 10-10 draw by virtue of being the away side.
This time Whitgift will be playing at home in South Croydon on Wednesday, when the opposition is Woodhouse Grove School.