RICHARD Huish College’s trailblazing U18 rugby squad have been urged to thrive on the big occasion as they prepare for a national final at Saracens’ StoneX Stadium next week, writes Paul Martin, Sportsbeat.

Huish are taking on Richard Hale College on March 13 in the Continental Tyres Schools Bowl final, the furthest stage the Taunton-based side have ever reached in an RFU national competition.

They will be backed by a strong travelling contingent from Somerset and Mike Ryan, the college’s sport development officer and assistant rugby coach, is relishing the trip.

“The boys are really looking forward to it,” he said. “Rugby is healthy here at the moment.

“The squad is a young one, all bar three are first years with us, in year 12, so it’s a promising group coming through, and they are all enjoying their rugby.

“Looking at our results and Richard Hale’s, we’re both scoring a lot of points so it should be a try-fest.”

Continental Tyres and the RFU are working together to grow rugby through school-linked activities and 171,404 age grade players have registered to play this season, almost 3,000 more than the overall figure last year.

Huish have beaten West Buckland, Truro, Sutton Valence, and Portsmouth Grammar to reach the final, the last two of which have been hosted at Hornets RFC’s artificial surface in Weston-Super-Mare.

Ryan feels that will prepare the squad nicely for the 4G pitch at the StoneX and he hopes the youngsters will raise their game when it matters.

“It will be an experience for a few of the boys, who might not potentially play on that stage again.

“We have to embrace that environment and enjoy it.

“A couple of the boys play with Bristol Bears and one of them, Kieran Hill, has been called up to an England Under-17 training camp.

“They are used to high pressure environments; it’s just how they react to having a stadium around them.

“Our second team will be up there to support and some of the other sports teams and staff have moved lessons around so they can come up and watch.

“We usually get parents watching as well, so we should be well supported. This is new territory for us, and we are really excited.”

The Continental Tyres Schools Cup is an important part of the age-grade rugby landscape in England, with schools’ rugby often where players fall in love with the game for the first time.

Peter Robb, marketing director of Continental Tyres UK and Ireland, said: “On behalf of Continental Tyres, we are incredibly proud to be title sponsor to the Continental Tyres Schools Cup in our second season. It’s another big year for school’s rugby.”