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Academy have star quality to shine in Schools' Cup


Up for the cup: Belfast Royal Academy will face city rivals, Grosvenor Grammar, in the Schools’ Cup tomorrow

Up for the cup: Belfast Royal Academy will face city rivals, Grosvenor Grammar, in the Schools’ Cup tomorrow

Up for the cup: Belfast Royal Academy will face city rivals, Grosvenor Grammar, in the Schools’ Cup tomorrow

Having produced the likes of Ireland legend Jack Kyle and current Ulster pair Iain Henderson and Stuart Olding, Belfast Royal Academy enter the Danske Bank Schools' Cup second round clash with Grosvenor looking to provide further inspiration for young pupils.

The school - who won their only outright title back in 1997 - last made the final in 2010 when a team featuring both Henderson and Olding lost 10-7 to Ballymena Academy, and head coach David Creighton is looking to establish a rugby culture that will serve the school well in future years.

They began the season strongly, fresh off a tour to South Africa that took them to Cape Town and Johannesburg, and while results have been mixed of late they have still secured wins over the likes of Sullivan, Bangor Grammar and Regent.

"We're happy with how the season has gone so far, we've had some good results," said Creighton.

"We came into the season off a great tour to South Africa. That gave us a bit of momentum and we've worked to improve since then. We've had some fairly good results and just a few that we wouldn't be too happy with.

"Our form was really good, we travelled down to Dublin and had a good win and the early fixtures went well.

"There's been an odd blip but we're hoping that we've timed things well for the next few weeks."

With the buzz of the competition in full flow this week, the head coach is hoping to see a performance that will inspire the younger pupils watching on from the sidelines to dream of one day making their Schools' Cup bow.

"It would be fantastic if we could go on a run," he said.

"At the start of the year we said to the senior players that we want them to act as role models. We want to try and build a rugby culture for the junior players. For the junior players to see the senior side in the Schools' Cup is great and from the school's point of view it's fantastic. You create something for the junior players to aspire to down the line.

"One to 15, we just look for consistency. We've a couple of players at the minute who are playing representative rugby and obviously we're looking to them to keep playing well, but our whole squad, right down to the players on the bench, are committed to what we're trying to achieve. We're trying to build a collective, if we keep that we'll be fine."

With Olding and Henderson still keen supporters, inspiration for those already in the senior side is not in short supply.

While Olding, who has won two Irish caps, is returning from injury tonight for Ulster's 'A' side, Henderson stormed the recent World Cup and was one of coach Joe Schmidt's top performers at the tournament.

Creighton has hailed the impact made by the two famous alums, saying it's great for pupils to see those who once sat in the same classrooms, now on the world stage.

"Those guys are a fantastic support to the school. We had them in recently at an open night and they can inspire the next generation," he said.

"They're fantastic at doing that and to see them performing on the world stage makes us obviously very proud.

"We're just delighted that they come in and support us regularly. Their nature and their way, you couldn't ask for better role models.

"They're so down to earth and the boys just feed off it. It'll inspire the other players at BRA to move on," he explianed.

The Ulster connection doesn't end there with Brian McLaughlin, the coach who took the province to a Heineken Cup final in 2012, on board.

"We have Brian McLaughlin as a rugby consultant and whose services we are delighted to use," explained Creighton.

"The players have fed off that really well and we're delighted with how it's going."

Emphasising the collective spirit in the squad, the team are captained by Gareth McAdams while out-half Connor McAuley, back-rowers Tom Gilpin and and Cormac McCracken, and lock Matthew Dalton have had a taste of representative rugby.

All will need to be at their best tomorrow (10.30am) in the first meeting of the year between the sides.

"We haven't played Grosvenor yet but the bits that we have seen, we know they're a very good side," he added.

"They've had some excellent results this season and play well away from home.

"We're going to need to be at our very best. As a team we're just really looking forward to the challenge.

"It's crucial for us that we're the best that we can be first and foremost and just take it from there."

Belfast Telegraph