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Ulster Rugby Branch reveal innovative new format for Schools' Cup

The launch of last season's Danske Bank Schools Cup, which is set to undergo a major rehaul next season
The launch of last season's Danske Bank Schools Cup, which is set to undergo a major rehaul next season
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

The Ulster Branch have announced that the Danske Bank Schools' Cup will undergo an innovative rehaul next season to improve the tournament.

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After a review of the annual schools' competition, the Ulster Branch's Schools Committee have decided that a new format is required for the tournament to both enhance the experience and provide more appropriate competitive fixtures.

While the traditional knockout games towards the latter stage of the Schools' Cup will be retained, a new group stage format will be introduced in the early parts of the competition.

All the competing schools will be separated into four tiers based on their needs and previous performances, and that will form the basis of the tournament.

The 24 schools in tiers two and three - which are outlined below - will face off in a group stage prior to Christmas that will see them split into six groups of four teams.

Each team will play the other three sides just once, with the six group winners and the four best runners-up qualifying for the knockout stages.

They will join the six tier one schools in the last-16, which will then play out as the Schools' Cup previously ran, with knockout games up until the annual St Patrick's Day final.

The teams that do not qualify for the knockouts of the Schools' Cup will then drop into the Schools' Trophy, which will run at the same time as the Schools' Cup fixtures.

Three teams in tier four will opt out of the 2019/20 Schools' Cup and will participate in what Ulster Rugby have called a "separate structure".

"During our 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," explained Stephen Black, chairman of the Ulster Branch's Schools Committee.

"What has been agreed is a progressive new format that will, whilst maintaining the knock-out stages of the Schools’ Trophy, Schools’ Bowl, Subsidiary Shield and Schools’ Cup, provide more meaningful fixtures for all our rugby playing schools where they can achieve success at their own particular level, while also improving the rugby experience of the players."

Below are all the details of the new tournament, plus the tiers that each school has been placed in:


Tier 1: Ballymena Academy, Campbell College Belfast, Methodist College Belfast, RBAI, RS Armagh, Wallace HS

Tier 2: Ballyclare High, Bangor Grammar, Belfast Royal Academy, Coleraine Grammar, Dalriada School, Down High School, Enniskillen Royal GS, Friends’ School, Omagh Academy, Rainey Endowed, Royal School Dungannon, Sullivan Upper

Tier 3: Banbridge Academy, Belfast High School, Cambridge House GS, Dromore High, Foyle College, Grosvenor Grammar, Larne Grammar, Limavady Grammar, Lurgan College, Portadown College, Regent House, Strabane Academy

Tier 4: Antrim Grammar, Carrickfergus Grammar, Wellington College

Schools’ Cup Knockout Stages Dates

Last 16: Saturday 8th February 2020

Quarter-Finals: Saturday 22nd February 2020

Semi-Finals: Tuesday 3rd March & Wednesday 4th March 2020 (Subject to confirmation)

Final: Tuesday 17th March 2020

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