A Rugby Life

A Rugby Volunteer's Blog

Old Priorians influencing Rugby Union in England

200_9579A couple of years ago I started writing an article about the fact that four people from the same school were on the RFU Council.  I couldn’t think of a suitable way of finishing off the piece so it sat in my draft folder until a Council colleague said that he knew a friend who would be interested in seeing what I had written and publishing it with some enhancements.

Below is the article that appeared in the September 2016 edition of The Independent Schools Magazine.


St Benedict’s School in Ealing, West London, has long been known as a strong rugby school, producing a number of youth internationals and the occasional full international, the latest being Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson, and it has consistently done well in the National Daily Mail Schools Cup competition.

What is less well known is the growing influence the school has at the headquarters of England Rugby. The RFU Council is a body of 60 or so volunteers that agrees policy for the game, members being elected by clubs around the country and others representing educational establishments (Schools, Colleges and Universities) and the Armed Forces.

There are now four members of the RFU Council who were educated at St Benedict’s: Chris Cuthbertson left St Benedict’s in 1973 and was elected by clubs in Middlesex to represent them on the RFU Council in 2003. Damien Hopley (1986), who won 3 England caps before injury curtailed his playing career, has sat on the Council since 2007 representing professional Rugby players. Andrew Sarek (1979) joined a year later as the representative of clubs in Eastern Counties and these three were joined in 2012 by Commander Jon Cunningham (1981) who represents the Royal Navy.

The quartet sit on various committees at Twickenham covering the breadth of the game.  Jon Cunningham is a member of the Nominations Committee; Chris Cuthbertson is Chairman of the Laws Cub Committee, a member of the Governance Committee, the Audit & Riisk Committee; Damian Hopley is a member of the Professional Game Board, while Andrew Sarek sits on the Club Development Sub Committee

Chris Cuthbertson said: ”The first time that I went to Twickenham was in 1967 on a Middle School trip to the Varsity match.  That trip was the start of my love of the game.  Whilst never a good player, I have made many life-log friends and have enjoyed every minute of my involvement both on and off the field”.

Nikki Woodroffe, Director of Sport at St Benedict’s, said: “Historically, rugby has played an integral part of both the sporting and school community here at St Benedict’s School.  the students are supported by excellent and highly qualified  teachers and coaches.

“The future of rugby looks bright as we continue to attract a high level of talent and achieve county cup victories and national finals such as the Rosslyn Park Sevens Junior competition.

“Under the Director of Rugby, James Coles, we field A through to D teams and cater for the talented as well as providing inclusivity.  This results in great camaraderie and spirit within the school across all ages and abilities.  We are proud of the strong link between the school and Wasps Academy, as well as with local clubs, which provide a pathway to represent England.  I’m sure the high calibre and tradition of rugby will continue for many years to come.”

My first experience of Twickenham was also a Varsity match although I can’t remember in what year.  There are other notable Old Priorians (St Benedict’s Old Boys) which you can look up on Wikipedia, but rugby is where there is the most influence.


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