During the 2015/16 season, Hampton’s 1st XV reached the quarter-finals of the Natwest Cup, as well as winning the prestigious St. Joseph’s College tournament for the first time.
The team’s captain was Roman Malin-Hiscock, who was interviewed in the Telegraph ahead of Hampton’s heartbreaking 10-9 quarter-final loss at Warwick School.
How has your season gone from a skipper’s perspective?
Fresh off the back of a tour to South America, our season started strongly and saw an unbeaten run until November. It was great to win all our games in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile; but winning the St. Joseph’s Rugby Festival title was a highlight as the competition attracts some of the very best schoolboy teams in the country. We scored 100 points on the first day and didn’t concede a try until the final match of the festival. Everything seemed to click for the team that weekend, and to achieve what no Hampton team has achieved before, left us feeling very emotional and proud.
How would you assess your qualities as a captain?
Since starting rugby, aged 10, I have captained numerous teams including England U16 Lions and London Wasps. Being captain at Hampton, however, has been the most enjoyable and rewarding. As a captain, my job is to instil confidence in the players around me and help them work hard to produce their best on the pitch. Fortunately at Hampton I have an array of leaders in the team to support me. It is a great feeling captaining a winning Hampton side.
Who are the characters in the team?
Hooker and vice-captain Alex Bidwell leads from the front and has been in excellent form this season. When Alex plays others around him emulate his tenacious playing style.
Other academy players, such as William Attfield, Will Verdan and Luca Cericola, demonstrate their class and talent, game after game and show why they’ve been selected to play rugby for their respective academies. My partner in the midfield, Zack Santos (Harlequins Academy), is a truly spirited player and it is an honour to play alongside him.
Mike Woollatt plays a crucial role both on and off the pitch – it is always reassuring to see a man of his pace on the wing and he is a model ‘social captain’. Second row Conor Gilligan has dominated the lineout this season, having played for the 3rd XV last season. He is an exemplary figure for rugby players in lower years, showing what hard work and dedication can achieve.
What are your rugby ambitions? Would you like to be a professional player?
I aim to continue to play rugby for as long as I enjoy it. The opportunity to be a professional rugby player would be fantastic; however, I have academic aspirations too. If I do not end up playing professional rugby, I will never stop loving the game and will support any of my friends at school and London Irish in their endeavours in the professional game.
Who are your rugby idols?
It was great to see so many young and experienced centres excel at the recent Rugby World Cup. Playing centre myself, I particularly enjoy the talent of Wesley Fofana, who has clearly worked hard to develop his all-round game. Another monumental figure in world rugby and a personal idol of mine is the All Black Ma’a Nonu. He has a perfectly balanced, graceful and ruthless playing style that I try to emulate in my own game.
What would it mean to both you and the school if you reach the Twickenham final in the NatWest Schools Cup?
A lot! Hampton has been very close on several occasions but we have never reached the final for the cup competition at Twickenham. Just playing in the final will create great memories to carry forward in to life after school. I am sure it would also mean a lot to the Old Hamptonians who have once graced the jersey and are now supporting us on our campaign.
How would you assess your chances against Warwick in the quarter-final?
Warwick is an esteemed name in schoolboy rugby and we recognise the challenge we have in front of us. The Warwick team has won some very respectable matches this season and we will do our homework on them – as I am sure they will for us. As far as we are concerned, our main priority is to focus on us and ensure we continue to work hard in training sessions.
How confident are you that your team will go all the way this season?
We are confident in our ability to win every game we play in, but we are also aware there are some factors we cannot control. At Hampton we do not put pressure on ourselves to win, and instead concentrate on performance. We like to focus on each game as it comes and we hope to play our best against Warwick in the upcoming quarter-final. As this is my last year at Hampton, playing rugby with my best mates, I hope it carries on for as long as possible.