Changes made to the structure of 1st XV Boys Rugby in the Thames Valley.

On Monday evening, the Secondary School Council (SSC) and Thames Valley Rugby Union (TVRU) made a significant change to the format of teenage boys Rugby within the Thames Valley region.

In 2023, the competition format allowed School 1st XV’s to play a maximum of five school leavers in a match-day squad of 22. This was a massive shift at the time, with the previous rules not allowing anyone to play for a School 1st XV who wasn’t enrolled at that particular school. However, the 2023 format was still not capturing all teenage boys wanting to play Rugby.

Current trends have shown that there are currently a large number of Boys between 15-18 years of age that are unable to play Rugby with people their own age/ability because they have left school to join trades or the workforce. This was not allowing some local schools/communities to field a 1st XV team, therefore, stunting the growth and opportunities of all players.

Over the past two months, TVRU staff have visited six out of our eight Secondary School Principals, Director of Sports, and Teachers in Charge of Rugby within the Thames Valley region – there was clear feedback from the majority, that further change was needed in order to reinvigorate teenage rugby, before it is too late. A proposal was then constructed by TVRU and circulated amongst School Leaders. The ideology was to take away any restrictions from Boys wanting to play Rugby, although keeping the integrity of Secondary School Rugby and the historic Coulter Cup.

A comprehensive vote was made by the SSC, supported by TVRU, and the following format was implemented for 2024 (please note that some guidelines below may be tweaked):

  1. Under 18 Competition in Term 2.
  • No restriction on the amount of school leavers.
  • Must be 17 years or younger as of 1st January 2024.
  • Players do not need to have been previously enrolled at the school they wish to represent.
  • Code of Conduct to be implemented to protect the integrity of a teenage competition.
  • Local communities have the opportunity to play under a school or club banner.
  1. 1st XV Coulter Cup Competition in Term 3.
  • Maximum of 5 school leavers in match-day squad of 22.
  • Must be 17 years or younger as of 1st January 2024.
  • Players must have been enrolled at the school they wish to represent.
  • The 5 school leavers must get Principals sign off to participate.

At this stage, it is likely that all Schools will continue to facilitate Rugby under their banner for both the U18 and 1st XV Competitions, although there was an option to play under a Club banner. The TVRU look forward to working alongside our School and Community Rugby leaders to ensure it is a smooth transition into the new hybrid competition.

The SSC must be commended for recognising that change needed to be made, and were prepared to action it. There was a clear attitude from all school representatives to look after player experience and enjoyment first and foremost.

All other competition formats in the Secondary School space will be confirmed in February next year. There is going to be a massive effort made to make Youth (ages 13-16) and Girl Competitions fit for purpose so all participants enjoy their Rugby involvement.


  1. Well done to all parties. This proposal looks great. Congratulations all round and on the degree of consultation and communication from the TValley union on this and during the season. Ron Morgan

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