96 Years of Rugby at Kirkham Grammar School

Kirkham Grammar School changed from being a soccer to a rugby playing school in 1924. In those days the only pitch the school possessed was the 1st XV pitch, because of continual use and no drainage it stank strongly in wet weather. Later, surrounding fields were bought and at one stage the school possessed four pitches on site. Since the development of the Astroturf and the sale of the cabbage patch for building, a much needed site has been purchased for new playing fields, five minutes' walk from school. When the site is fully developed it will be a considerable aid to the further development of rugby at KGS as many schools are now fielding B XVs and even C XVs every Saturday!

I have known two of my predecessors, Sidney Crane and David Worth, who developed rugby at KGS during their time in charge. From 1958 - 61 Stephen Wilcock was a reserve for the Senior England XV and in 1972-73 today's team manager and replacement, Keith Aitchison, and the late and much loved Clive Hughes both played for England Schools' 19 group. KGS was the only school to possess two full schools' internationals that year. I feel Keith had the talent to have gained a senior cap and was very unlucky not to do so.

In those days the majority of the best players were, in my opinion produced by the grammar schools such as Blackpool G.S. who produced players like Roger Uttley, Cowley GS who produced countless internationals as did West Park GS and Wade Deacon GS, but all this changed with the introduction of comprehensive education. Until then top players had rolled off the conveyor belt but the RFU did not realise that the potential because of the English philosophy of not taking sport too seriously, being happy to be second rate but playing with style!

KGS went independent and co-educational in 1979, the number of boys dropped and some felt rugby at KGS would die. I took charge of the PE Department and 1st XV in 1979 to be told this by the Bursar of the time! The standard of rugby did drop temporarily but a turning point arose when the 1st XV, captained by Mark Preston, won the International Rugby Festival at Preston. This gave rugby a boost at KGS. A successful world tour was undertaken in 1987 which was another step forward and the 1st XV consistently won many of their games. Another boost came when KGS reached the final of the Under 18 Daily Mail Cup at Twickenham in 1997 with many supporters enjoying the semi-final and the final.

Paul Smith who taught PE and Rugby at the time, was a major influence in developing Rugby at KGS. Aled Trenhaile showed that not only seniors play good rugby, but our juniors had the potential to be successful also. Now that the number of boys in the school is increasing, and the Junior School play rugby, the future of the game, although never assumed as standards can collapse in two years, has never had possessed more potential.

Some players now come to KGS to develop their skills, two examples would be Pat and Alex Sanderson who are now full time professionals. Pat was the first Old Kirkhamian to be capped by full England at the age of 20 playing New Zealand twice and South Africa once in 15 days. He went as part of a weak team but proved himself as a player with great potential to succeed at international level. Pat gained the ultimate honour in 2006 in captaining the full England team in Australia, a first for Kirkham Grammar School. Alex was the first England School's Captain produced by KGS and I feel he also possess the same qualities as Pat. He captained England U21 last season.

I am delighted to see all players who have played for KGS with skill, pride and humour. Some, such as Ian and Keith Aitchison, have represented English Schools. Richard Robinson never played schools representative rugby but played for Leicester when they won the first division championship in 1995/96. Whatever honour the players of KGS have achieved, I hope they have gained great satisfaction and enjoyment from the game and feel that they have been fine ambassadors for the school.

Some of the staff who were major factors in the development of rugby at KGS have been mentioned, but there are many academic staff, like Richard Browning, too numerous to mention who gave up their spare time to promote rugby at KGS. The State schools have largely lost their help and KGS is fortunate that it has possessed staff willing to give up many hours to coach sport.

By: Brian Gornall, 1st XV Rugby Coach 1979 – 2007

In recent years, KGS has produced a number of schoolboy internationals at 18 Group; Kieran Wilkinson, Teddy Leatherbarrow, Connor Doherty and Sam Dugdale all capped in 2018 and 16 Group, whilst Sevens and Tens rugby has become an important part of developing rugby in the Spring Term.

The school has won the following prestigious tournaments: Birkenhead School Sevens (2000, 2009 and 2015), Fylde Sevens (2001, 2008, 2009 and 2015), Sedbergh School National Tens (2003), Christ Brecon Sevens (2007 and 2017) and The North of England Sevens (2008, 2009, 2015 and 2017), as well as reaching the final of the Open Tournament at Rosslyn Park in 2009.

Since 2010, KGS has produced three full internationals in England World Cup players Richard Wigglesworth and Kieran Brookes and Ireland International Kieran Marmion. On the International Sevens Circuit KGS has two current England players in Richard de Carpentier and Daniel Bibby.

By Aled Trenhaile, 1st XV Rugby Coach 2007 – current