RUGBY has been played at Prince Henry's Grammar School for 100 years- and the sport is still thriving there today.

The long history of rugby at the Otley school is outlined in the following piece by PHGS English Faculty Leader and First Team coach Chris Smith, with sources from Malcolm Grange of Otley RUFC.

The 2021-22 season marks 100 years of rugby being played at Prince Henry’s Grammar School. The first game was in the 1921-22 season, played against Ben Rhydding with PHGS winning the game 24-0. It was also the season when the school permanently changed from being a football school to a rugby one – the boys themselves approached the PE Master, explaining that the main game should be rugby ‘because Otley is a rugby town’.

At that time, Otley had four rugby clubs: Otley RUFC, the Congregational Social Club, St Josephs (who played on the ‘Irish fields’) and Otley Old Boys (students of Ilkley GS who were from Otley). In one picture the school is shown under construction in the early 1920s, with the Cricket, Hockey and Rugby pitches to the rear of the school, which became the location of the 1st XV pitch for 80 years.

In 2007, the 1st XV pitch was relocated the front of the new Hindle Science Building, which was built over part of the old cricket pitch. Pictured is an image from the 2018 U18 RFU National Bowl Quarter-Final against Ravens Wood School, with hundreds of students spectating. This year, a 3G pitch is being installed here, which gives the school an all-weather surface on which rugby can be played.

A significant moment in the rugby history of the school was the conversion from being a traditional, selective Grammar school to a fully Comprehensive, non-selective state school in 1967 with the new school buildings opening in 1970. Fixtures with local Independent schools were established at this time and in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, then Head of PE, David Price, arranged rugby tours to Montereau, the twin town of Otley. These alternating tours continued for approximately another 10 years. Pictured is a 1st XV from the 1980s, including Sean Atkinson, who went on to be Otley RUFC Captain, and Nick Girling, who became Chairman of Otley RUFC after playing for both Otley RUFC and Old Otliensians RUFC.

There have been many notable Rugby players produced by the school, with Danny Care perhaps the most famous rugby alumni. A Scrumhalf for his career, Danny played one season at Fly-Half when Chris Mobbs (England U16 Scrumhalf) was in the PHGS 1st XV captained by Luke Cooper, in a team coached by Pete Latham MBE, which won the 2004 NatWest Vase at Twickenham. Danny has stayed in close contact with Pete and the school, donating many prizes for us to fundraise with.

In 2006, Leeds Carnegie (and a certain Stuart Lancaster) took the decision to establish an RFU Academy at PHGS, allowing talented players to focus on their development as potential professional Rugby players alongside their academic studies. In its 6 years, the Academy produced over 40 players for the Championship and Premiership sides. In 2013-14, the PHGS Academy provided England with their U18 front row, as well as four players who lifted the U20 World Championship in 2016.

The relationship between the school and the two Otley clubs, Otley RUFC and Old Otliensians RUFC, has developed over the years with current and ex-students playing at both clubs. Old Otliensians RUFC was formed by ex-PHGS students in 1926 and, after the War, re-formed in 1948. The club shares the traditional navy school colours, as well as having the school badge on the shirts. Old Otliensians provides its floodlit facilities so that the senior players facing GCSE and A-Level exams can train there on an evening. Otley RUFC have been instrumental in helping the rugby teams raise funds, with events such as the Boxing Day rugby matches, the fundraising dinners for South Africa trips and the 3G pitch.

Rugby at the school continues to be vibrant and important, with Girls’ Rugby steadily growing in participation, and teams have continued to be successful. This season, both the U14s and U16s are in the Yorkshire Cup final, whilst the U18s reached the RFU National Bowl Quarter-Final, and the performance of our 7s teams across the year groups continues to enrich the school’s national reputation. With a dedicated team of PHGS staff, parent volunteers and support from both local clubs, the future is bright for PHGS rugby.