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Cheltenham College played in the first inter-school rugby football match against Rugby School. Following the match, 'Cheltenham Rules' were adopted by the Rugby Football Union in 1887. 

Rugby remains the main sport for boys at College during the Autumn Term. The fixture list continues to provide pupils with the opportunity to compete at the highest level, against some of the top independent rugby schools in the South West.

It is a testament to the regard with which rugby is held at College that a school with less than 400 boys can still compete with larger all-boys’ schools. College sides have a reputation for free-flowing and skillful rugby that harks back to the original ideals of the sides in the late 1800s. 

At the center of Cheltenham College’s coaching philosophy are key fundamentals that we believe bring the best out of our pupils:

  • Increase number of touches per player per session
  • Endorse gameplay as much as possible
  • Encourage leadership within the pupils
  • Construct a challenging environment where pupils improve resilience 
  • Develop fundamentals skills and techniques.

As a result of our endeavor to achieve these principles, each player will improve skills such as flair, hard work, commitment and teamwork which will enable them to become well-rounded individuals on the sports field and in the community.

Rugby Sevens

The Spring Term sees the popular game of rugby sevens take over. With a strong tradition at the Rosslyn Park National School Sevens, the school competes in a number of tournaments throughout the term involving U14, U16, and U18 teams. This year saw our U18 Sevens team reach the final of the Rosslyn Park Sevens beating Monmouth, Stowe, St Peters York, and Bromsgrove on the way. It was the first time in 12 years that the school had reached the final, having previously won it in 2003 and 2004.


Cheltenham College has had a long term affiliation with Gloucester Rugby. Being an educational partner, the school currently has close to 20 players involved with the U14, U15, U16 and U18 teams.  An Old Cheltonian, Ollie Thorley (BH, 2015), was the youngest player to represent the Gloucester 1st XV and scored his first try at just 17 years old.  Nick Abendandon (former European Player of the Year) and Simon Danielli have also gone on to gain full international caps for England and Scotland.

We are also proud to have strong links within the community and recently invited the Gloucester Wheel Chair Rugby side to College. It was fantastic for our pupils to experience what the sport entailed, as well as an insight into playing sport with a disability.

Cheltenham College has also been fortunate in attracting professional teams such as Sale Sharks, Gloucester Rugby, the Barbarians and England U20s to train and use our facilities, which have been fantastic exposure for our pupils. Our pupils have also been fortunate enough to have coaching clinics with internationals Greig Laidlaw, James Hook and Jonny May. 

Strength and conditioning

The Performance Gym has recently undergone a refurbishment and a new emphasis has been placed on Strength and Conditioning with rugby squads having access throughout all three terms. This allows our rugby athletes to be as physically prepared as possible for the demands of the game, avoiding injury and performing to the best of their ability. Provision is available for all, as well as more targeted sessions for our XV and other performance teams. Our elite athletes are also part of the Talented Athlete Programme, which nurtures and supports those competing at national level and beyond. ​

Recent results

The 2016-17 season was a huge success, with close to 140 matches played across the term involving over 300 boys. Most notably our U15s reached the quarter final of the Natwest Cup, our U14 boys were unbeaten at home and our U18s reached 16th out of 105 schools in the Daily Mail Merit Table taking home the Jamie Waters Cup (Radley College) and Parry Combe Cup in the process (Marlborough College).

Cheltenham College also recently hosted the 'Oldest Four' tournament which saw some of the first schools to play the game in Sherborne, St Paul’s, Durham and Cheltenham, compete in a two-day festival.