The Premiership Rugby / RFU U18 Academy Finals Day promises to deliver its fair share of theatre as the curtain comes down on the an exciting year of youth rugby on Monday.
Northampton Saints clash with Saracens, Leicester Tigers take on Bath Rugby and Gloucester face off with Exeter Chiefs on a bumper afternoon of action, with entry to Allianz Park free and well worth making the most of.
And while the three finals will be a great opportunity for rugby fans to see the Premiership talent of tomorrow, Saints coach Mark Hopley admits the afternoon is also a well-earned opportunity for the players to showcase themselves after a tough and entertaining campaign.
“They’ve worked really hard all year,” Hopley said.
“We talk about getting better and better as the season progresses, and I think we have done that.
“It should be a good, dry, fast track and our boys will thoroughly enjoy playing on it.”
As well as the potential for silverware and bragging rights, the U18 Finals Day offers young players the chance to put themselves firmly in the shop window for senior honours, with Jim Mallinder and Dai Young just two of the directors of rugby to have attended the event in the past.
Danny Grewcock, who takes charge of Bath’s U18 cohort, hopes his young chanrges do themselves credit with the way they play against the Tigers.
“We play a very positive, attacking game. We have a very skilful group of players and we want them to express themselves,” Grewcock said.
“That won’t change against Leicester. There are very talented young lads in our squad, who work incredibly hard.
“They show great ambition to play at this level.”
To add to the spectacle, the setting of Allianz Park provides a suitably impressive backdrop, with many of the players on show hoping to return to the Saracens stadium in Premiership clashes down the line – a fact Gloucester U18s coach Peter Buxton recognises.
“For us it’s a South West Derby and that’s another big part of it for the lads, as is an away trip to Allianz Park,” Buxton said.
“It’s also good for their development to prepare for big games in big stadiums.
“All of those will be big positives for them, the guys enjoyed the experience last year and I think they will this year as well.”
The trio of finals, which kicks off with Gloucester and Exeter at 1pm and concludes with the first-place shootout between Northampton and Saracens, is set to be a memorable afternoon’s entertainment for all involved.
Mike Hynard, head of academies and development at Premiership Rugby, sums it up nicely.
“For any rugby fans, the day offers an opportunity to see the best young players in the country playing in top quality games against each other,” he said.
“You will not get a better chance to witness the stars of the future.”
The Premiership Rugby / RFU U18 Academy Finals Day will take place on Monday, 16 February at Allianz Park. Entry is free with gates opening at 11.30am with the first game kicking off at 1pm.