FOUR schools who nurtured the game of rugby during its formative years in the 19th Century are to compete in a groundbreaking tournament in the North East.
Durham School is hosting the four-team Round Robin next month, which also features first XVs from schools in Rugby in Warwickshire, Cheltenham in Gloucestershire and Sherbourne, Dorset.
Some of the modern-day game’s top stars have been invited to a ball to celebrate the occasion afterwards.
Martin George, headteacher at the fee-paying Durham School, and an old boy who played for the school’s First XV, said: “As a boy I was well aware of the proud tradition of rugby at this school.
“Durham School is one of the five oldest rugby clubs in Britain. Soon after I was appointed head last year I was having a conversation with our director of sport Ben Mason, and he suggested this tournament. We very much hope it will be a success and will become a regular feature of the sporting calendar. Entry to the tournament is free, sports fans should see some excellent rugby, and we very much hope it will catch the imagination of the North East sporting public.”
The tournament kicks off at 10am on October 23.
Rugby was invented by schoolboy William Webb Ellis who, with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time, first took the ball and ran with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the rugby game.
A plaque commemorating the occasion in 1823 at the school in Rugby marks a place of pilgrimage for thousands.
It was to be another 27 years before Durham School began playing the sport, which Mr George believes was introduced by schoolmasters, possibly from Rugby.
But teachers and students soon mastered the rudiments of the game, and from 1890 to 1930 Durham one of the rugby nurseries in England.
The Barbarians rugby team played against Old Dunelmians in 1897 (Barbarians won 18-5) and just before the First World War, the school supplied four England players as well as a number of England triallists.
Between 1920 and 1930 the school produced seven full internationals as well as several trialists. The headmaster during this great period was Richard Thomas Dutton Budworth who was himself a former England international and Barbarian.
Newcastle Falcons (originally Gosforth) rugby union club were founded as the old boys side and played in the school’s colours until recently (green and white hoops).
More recent Durham Alumni to have enjoyed successful rugby careers include England lock Gareth Archer and British Lions great Mike Weston, as well as a number of Newcastle Falcons, maintaining the traditional links.
On the evening of the tournament a celebration ball is being held at Ramside Hall, Durham, in aid of the Durham School Sports Fund.
:: For further information about the Celebration Ball on October 23, contact Susan Langthorne, the events manager at Durham School, on 0191 375 3275 or at firstname.lastname@example.org