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Your News 21st birthday for North of England 7's

One of the best-known institutions in Northern rugby, the North of England Schoolboy Sevens organised by Birkenhead Park RUFC, will come of age this season when the tournament will reach its 21st birthday on Sunday, March 8.

And it will do so with a new main sponsor, Kukri, the well-known sportswear manufacturers from Preston in Lancashire.

"Obviously we're very grateful to Kukri MD Robert Perkins for his company's generous backing for the next three years which will enable us to plan confidently for the future." says Graeme Marrs, one of the chief driving forces behind the tournament since its inception.

"At this stage it's also appropriate to restate our thanks to all the sponsors who have supported us down the years. Without their help we would not be where were are today.

"We've had a couple of disappointments with the weather, so we have our fingers very tightly crossed.

"We have a 21st Birthday dinner planned, with Ray French one of our VIP guests, and we're very much looking forward to another wonderful celebration of schools' sevens rugby to mark this important milestone for the event."

Said Kukri MD Robert Perkins: "We are delighted to be involved with a rugby competition like the North of England Schools Sevens that has stood the test of time. Reaching the milestone speaks of a quality rugby product and top-class organisation, two features that are very much part of our business."

The concept was first explored in 1987 when dual-code Rugby international Ray French, then a master at Cowley Grammar School in St Helen's, commented to Park official John Montador

that the school's Sevens team had to travel long distances to find a competition in which they could play.

Club Secretary Graeme Marrs became involved and with the support of insurance company C T Bowring via the good offices of local director Brian Boumphrey the first tournament was staged in 1989.

That inaugural event attracted 19 teams from an invitation list sent to schools across the North and Midlands, with Cowley beating Wirral Grammar in the final to win the Bowring trophy for the first time.

That initial success was followed by steady growth and increasing interest, the Boodle & Dunthorne Salver being initiated in 1992 as a trophy for the Plate section and the entry list expanding to the 40 teams who now take part each year.

Llandovery College were one of the first 'international' guests to take part and while in the early days Stonyhurst College were the side to beat, latterly Sedbergh School have had a major impact, although in 2008 the honours went to Red Rose challengers Kirkham Grammar, who pipped Sedbergh in the group games and went on to have their names inscribed on the trophy.

Throughout the history of the event, the calibre of the players involved has been matched by that of the officials taking part, with the combination of ex-international referee Steve Lander and his colleagues in the prestigious Liverpool Society ensuring the highest standards of officialdom, while Olympic physio Pamela Gardiner and her team and the medical staff ensure that player well-being is a priority.

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