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Group stages to be introduced in new Schools' Cup format

Winners: Kevin McNaboe lifts this year’s trophy for Methody
Winners: Kevin McNaboe lifts this year’s trophy for Methody
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

The Danske Bank Schools' Cup will undergo a radical overhaul next season with a group stage to be implemented in the competition for the first time.

The 33 schools entering the competition have been split into four tiers, with those in the top band - holders Methody, Ballymena Academy, Campbell, RBAI, Royal School Armagh and Wallace - remaining largely unaffected, coming in, as is now tradition, for the last-16 in early February.

The 10 teams that join them will have taken a dramatically different route, while the three teams that make up tier four - Antrim Grammar, Carrickfergus Grammar and Wellington College - have opted out of the format.

The 24 teams comprising tiers two and three will be drawn into six groups of four, with each pool winner joining the tier one sides in the last-16, with the four best runners-up also making the knockout stage.

The pool games will be played on three weekends in October, November and December.

Ulster Branch Schools Committee Chairman, Stephen Black, said: "The new format for the Danske Bank Ulster Schools' Cup was part of a bigger review process aimed at improving the rugby experience of young players in schools.

"During that review, we established an acknowledgement there was no 'one size fits all' solution for the rugby-playing schools, that each school should be engaged to find 'where they fit' in any participation model, and any recommended adaptions should not increase the burden on already stretched school resources."

The pool draw takes place today.

TIER ONE: Ballymena Academy, Campbell College, Methodist College, RBAI, RS Armagh, Wallace HS

TIER TWO: Ballyclare High, Bangor Grammar, BRA, Coleraine Grammar, Dalriada, Down High School, Enniskillen Royal GS, Friends' School, Omagh Academy, Rainey Endowed, RS Dungannon, Sullivan Upper

TIER THREE: Banbridge Academy, Belfast High School, Cambridge House, Dromore High, Foyle College, Grosvenor Grammar, Larne Grammar, Limavady Grammar, Lurgan College, Portadown College, Regent House, Strabane Academy

TIER FOUR: Antrim Grammar, Carrickfergus Grammar, Wellington College

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