Is Three Not The Magic Number?

RUGBY: CCK have arrived at the top flight of college rugby, but is it an unwanted arrival?

CCK rugby Clare college rugby Corpus jesus johns King's Robinson

College’s first division rugby will continue to showcase bone-breaking, try-scoring, quasi-homosexual behaviour (insert disclaimer here) this year, with the season now underway.

But one team has a notable, and arguably unfair, advantage.

I’m not referring to the Red Boys, with both their toppled 10 year dominance and over-sized Johnian egos to reclaim. Or even for that matter, their devoutly inspired usurpers, with their naming rights sponsored by the son of God himself.

The team I’m talking about, who in theory should have the rest quivering in their boots, is the club that has the privilege of choosing from over 1,000 undergrads.

CCK R.U.F.C. enter their first season in Division One with the ability to call upon 392 students from King’s, 440 from Clare, and 250 from Corpus Christi. In comparison, last year’s champions Jesus only had 489 admitted undergrads, while the traditional red juggernaut of Johns only has 589. In all cases, only half of these are male, but for the sake of comparison, this doesn’t make a difference.

Scrum time – is the the CCK pool now too big?

I’m not here to question the original need for CCK. Clare and King’s are traditionally music colleges with a low quantity of rugby playing students, and Corpus is half the size of some of the larger colleges such as Johns. But clearly the argument that these colleges need to combine in order to put out 15 capable players on a pitch is no longer valid.

In many ways CCK now serves the opposite of its purpose.  The fact 1,000 undergraduates (approximately 500 male) have to be squeezed into one team of 15, means that potential players at all three colleges won’t be able to partake in the sport on a weekly basis.

Do CCK have an unfair advantage?

Rugby, for the majority of colleges, goes in swings and roundabouts. While St Catz have dropped through the trap door the last two years, Robinson have climbed up the divisions along with CCK. Struggling to put out a team is part of this constant change of fortunes. And CCK’s rise to Division One shows its constituent colleges no longer have the terminal ineptness in form that originally justified its existence.

Clare Captain Tom Breeze is still adamant that the combined team is necessary for the three colleges to be able to field a team, but admits that it’s odd that given Clare’s “solid record of Blues rugby, [we] struggle to canvas enough players to fill a side.”

Perhaps there now needs to be a condition in popular College sports like rugby that prevents combined teams from competing outside of the lowest Division? In theory, what’s stopping Jesus and Johns combining to completely end all thoughts of anyone else winning the crown?

Tom Elton, Corpus Rugby Captain, thinks that’s exactly what more Colleges should be doing. “Amalgamation is a great option and more colleges, especially small ones, should do it,” he says, adding that it would help challenge the “recent hegemony of John’s and Jesus.”

Stefan Filip, Varsity 2010 Under 21s player, and part of the Robinson squad playing CCK last week made his thoughts clear: “Clare should just man up and put their own team out.”

Until they do, it would not be unfair for other teams to voice their frustration at Division One’s newest members.

Photos courtesy of Jason Connor