With the 2012 Northern Bank Schools' Cup already underway and the more fancied runners poised to enter the race, the season is entering its’ most important stage for players at this level.
John Wilson, chairman of the Ulster Schools' Committee, on which he has served for 10 years, has been involved with schools' rugby for over three decades.
His CV includes having coached at Campbell College, Lurgan College, the Royal School Dungannon and Larne Grammar School, so he has worked with giants and minnows.
Tellingly he is convinced that despite more counter-attractions than ever before, Schools’ rugby in Ulster has never been healthier.
“The game has changed from a single-entry competition, to the current four levels of entry,” he said.
“There are four competitions (Schools’ Cup, Schools’ 2nd XV Cup, Schools’ 3rd XV Cup and Medallion Shield) which run simultaneously and they allow every school in the province an opportunity to win a cup.
“The quality of schools' rugby has improved greatly, players are much fitter and better coached.”
As the world's second-oldest rugby competition, the Northern Bank Schools' Cup lacks nothing is terms of prestige or pedigree
“There's a magic, an intensity, to Schools' Cup matches that you don't get in other games,” he said.