A re-run of last year’s Aviva Premiership Rugby final, the renewal of an age-old rivalry and a West Country derby in a single afternoon is more than enough to whet the appetite.
That is the menu on offer at Monday’s Premiership Rugby / RFU U18 Academy Finals Day at Allianz Park, after the six finalists were decided in a tight final weekend of conference fixtures.
Reigning champions Northampton Saints will face off with Southern Conference table-toppers Saracens in the showpiece event, while Leicester Tigers will lock horns with Bath Rugby, and Gloucester will take on south-west neighbours Exeter Chiefs as the curtain comes down on another season of entertainment from the Premiership’s talents of tomorrow.
And Mike Hynard, head of academies and development at Premiership Rugby, insists the make-up of the final six illustrates the class on show in the U18 games this year.
“There’s no doubt it’s a very strong field to contest the Finals Day and there is a lot of quality in those teams,” he said.
“Going into the final round of games we could have seen any number of those teams finishing top of their respective groups.
“If Exeter had won and Saracens had lost that last match, Chiefs would have won the pool, but they ultimately ended up in third, which shows you exactly how tight the conferences are.
“There was everything to play for going into the last conference games and we have been left with three fantastic finals.”
The trio of games on finals day will pit six impressive outfits against each other – the finalists have already recorded 27 wins from their 36 combined matches.
“It is difficult to pick a standout team because it has been so tight at the top of both pools all season, and that will be shown on Finals Day as well,” Hynard added.
“Saints have an unbeaten record, but each club involved has a very good team with a lot of qualities on show.
“There will be some real quality involved on Monday, which is why these clubs have managed to reach the finals.”
The games kick off at 1pm, with the 3rd v 3rd shootout between Gloucester and Exeter. Leicester v Bath is due to start at 3pm, with the title being decided from 5pm when Northampton tackle Saracens. Entry is free, with gates open from 11.30am.
“The Premiership Rugby / RFU U18 Academy Finals Day will showcase the best U18 talent,” added Hynard. “We are set for three fantastic finals day games.”
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.