London public school pupils revive Rugby Fives and prepare to take on ‘the snobs’


“There is only one other state school in the country, in Derby, that plays Fives,” says Alex Gilbert, the physical education teacher supervising the session. “I don’t know why so few do it. It’s good. We’ve found it works for everyone, kids who are good in their PE and those who are a little more reluctant. »

He should know. This is a school that takes its sport seriously. 2020 Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart was a pupil here, as were cruiserweight boxing champion Lawrence Okolie and Charlton Athletic midfielder Sean Clare. And from September, they intend to become competitive at Fives, engaging in matches against some of the state schools long associated with the game.

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“We can’t wait to see how chicos play,” Ameddzhan said. “See if they do it differently.”

And what makes the story of The Fives of Stoke Newington all the more extraordinary is that Tevez, Jack and Ameddzhan only play because of a chance conversation in the staff room. In 1970, when it was Clissold School, the headmaster was a former rugby student and had half a dozen outdoor courts built in the playground. But when he left, the game ceased to be played. By the time Clissold merged with Woodbury Down School to form one giant town center complex, they had fallen into disrepair. Then, in the mid-1990s, Rugby Fives coach Howard Wiseman heard about it and persuaded the then headmaster that it could be a game to get pupils excited about. He was right. By 2002, he had over 100 of them playing regularly, helped them become the first public school to win the national championship, and produced the nation’s No. 1 player. Then, wanting to make it a year-round sport, he obtained a scholarship from the Association Nationale des Fives and had a roof fitted on the courts.

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“It was our loss”, he explains, 20 years later. “The school had major construction going on at the time and by the time the roof went over the courts were requisitioned to be used as storage for building materials. They were never played. And all the momentum of the program was lost.



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