Schools across Northern Ireland are gearing up for the highlight of the rugby calendar — the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup.
The preliminary round of the 2011-12 competition will take place on Saturday when Antrim Grammar hosts Wellington College to determine which school will join 11 others in the second round of the second oldest rugby competition in the world.
The winner will be joining in the second round Banbridge Academy; Belfast High School; Cambridge House School (Ballymena); Carrickfergus Grammar; Dalriada School (Ballymoney); Friends’ School (Lisburn); Larne Grammar School; Lurgan College; Omagh Academy; Portora Royal School (Enniskillen), and Rainey Endowed School (Magherafelt).
The winning teams from those matches will progress to the third round of the competition on January 28 and will be joined by 10 teams: Bangor Grammar; Belfast Royal Academy; Coleraine Academical Institution; Down High School; Foyle & Londonderry College; Grosvenor Grammar School (Belfast); Portadown College; Regent House School (Newtownards); Royal School Dungannon, and Sullivan Upper School (Holywood).
The final eight seeded teams — Ballyclare High School; Ballymena Academy; Campbell College (Belfast); Limavady Grammar; Methodist College Belfast; Royal Belfast Academical Institution; Royal School Armagh, and Wallace High School (Lisburn) — will join the winners of rounds three and four on February 11.
The quarter-finals will be held on February 25, semi-finals on March 5 and the final on March 19 at Ravenhill.
Rosamond Bennett, head of communications at Northern Bank, said: “It’s a tournament that holds a particularly special place in the hearts of pupils and former pupils, teachers and families, who come out to show their support rain, hail, shine or snow.
“It is this level of local energy and passion that makes the Schools’ Cup such a rewarding partnership for us as a local bank. We are looking forward to another exciting tournament ahead.”