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Despite being a small school in comparison to local rivals in Reading and Oxford, Shiplake College sports a proud rugby tradition with a habit of causing upsets year on year. Supported by a hugely experienced coaching team, focusing on the skills required to play high tempo counter-attacking rugby, Shiplake boys are able to enhance their own individual talents as well as the ability to work well in a team.

There is no doubt that boys get a lot of enjoyment out of rugby at the College. Teams continue to go from strength-to-strength, with the recent increase in pupil numbers contributing to Shiplake’s ongoing success. An important feature of Shiplake’s inclusive environment is that all pupils throughout the College are given the opportunity to represent their school. Multiple teams are fielded in every year group allowing every willing pupil to experience the honour of playing for Shiplake.

Player Development

"Our playing philosophy is to develop personal skills within a sporting environment, be challenged on the sports field and to achieve a personal measure of success.”

Shiplake College has a strong and growing reputation for player development. In recent history, players have gone on to represent Wasps, Worcester, Bath & London Irish in the Aviva Premiership, and England Age Groups, (U16 – U20), England 7s and Fiji U20. The major sport in the Autumn Term is Rugby and the majority of students at Shiplake opt to be involved in the contact variation of the game.

Most fixtures will be played on a Saturday morning, against other independent schools in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey and London. For a small school we are proud to field 15 sides regularly. Rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes and we offer A, B, C & development teams with a level to suit all abilities. Touch rugby is rapidly growing as a sport in England and we now offer U12/13, U14/15, U16 and U18 touch rugby training, run alongside contact rugby.

Friday Night Lights

A highlight of the season for the whole school is Friday Night Lights, held annually at Henley Rugby Club towards the end of November. With floodlights, nerves and c.500 spectators, playing for the Davies Shield in Friday Night Lights is one of the proudest moments for a Shiplake rugby player.




Rugby 7s

Run alongside the major sports of the Spring Term, players that choose to play Rugby 7s adapt and develop their playing style to suit the shorter format of the game. The 1st VII enter a number of tournaments across the South East, building towards Rosslyn Park National School 7s towards the end of March. Those players aiming to play county representative rugby have the opportunity to do so through links with Counties (Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire & Berkshire) and Premiership Academies (London Irish, Saracens and Wasps).

At the beginning of February, Shiplake host the curtain raiser of the school 7s season with the Shiplake 7s. Sixteen of the best 7s sides from the South and Midlands play for the Cracknell Cup, named in honour of Old Viking Chris Cracknell (Ex-England 7s player and Ex-Fiji Coach). A history of the tournament can be found at




An overseas tour to South Africa has become a regular biennial feature of Shiplake rugby. Occurring in August, the tour generally consists of around 25 boys who are in contention for the coveted 1st XV jerseys. The tour offers a chance for the boys to experience South African culture, visiting some amazing locations such as Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg. The 15-day itinerary typically includes a number of skill workshops at Alan Zondagh’s Rugby Performance Centre, fixtures against various local schools and game drives at the Kariega Game Reserve.


Please visit our scholarships page for more information on rugby scholarships available at Shiplake College.


“Our coaching philosophy is a focus on the fundamental skills of catch, pass, tackle and run, pupils are equipped with all the tools to play rugby safely. To allow freedom of expression during training and in matches, developing leaders to make good decisions on and off the field.”

CARDS (Creativity, Awareness, Resilience, Decision-Making, Self-Organisation)

Coaches aim to make creative players who are self-aware and aware of others. Clearly, players need to demonstrate resilience and decision making in the game and self-organisation on or off the pitch. CARDS underpins all our coaching and playing at Shiplake.

Creativity - “ability of the players to create new and adapt existing solutions”

Awareness - “of ball, opponents and team mates to make good attacking and defensive decisions”

Resilience - “ability of all the players to cope effectively when faced with adversity, challenge or stress”

Decision-making - “individual & collective decisions based on their awareness under pressure by applying principles of play”

Self-organisation - “players’ ability to identify problems, solutions and co-ordinate themselves”

Coach Education & Rugby Safety

Pupils and staff are encouraged to attend coach education award courses with the RFU, starting with Scrum Factory, Rugby Ready & Rugby Safe. Many of our coaches hold RFU Coaching (Level 1 & 2) & RFU Refereeing (Level 1 & 2). Pupils often start their coaching journey at Shiplake having the opportunity to achieve the Scrum Factory, Rugby Ready & Rugby Safe awards before leaving Shiplake.

Shiplake are at the forefront of rugby safety and recent changes to the “Rules of Play” are there to support the development of the game, and to ensure our players have the best possible experience on the field.

Shiplake takes part in the RFU Schools' Rugby Injury Survellance and Prevention Programme, for warm ups and to prevent player injury. All players at Shiplake undertake an evidence-led warm-up that helps reduce the risk of injury. The image recognises our contribution to the research last season. Independently conducted by the University of Bath, the RFU state "the research is contributing to one of the biggest community based sports injury surveillance programmes in the world and continues to provide us with a better understanding of the game. This valuable insight will allow us to develop evidence-based strategies and interventions to ensure the game offers a safe and enjoyable experience for young people."

16 rugby union teams are fielded by Shiplake each season, encompassing all seven year groups