John’s vs Jesus: The Captains

RUGBY: Before Tuesday’s showdown RUPERT MERCER caught up with NIck Roope and George Hunter

Andy Gill cambridge rugby Cuppers el clasics George Hunter jesus rugby john's rugby Nick Roope Ollie Exton redboys rugby league Tom Hudson

This Tuesday sees hostilities renewed between the two powerhouses of Cambridge rugby. Jesus and John’s both go into the fixture unbeaten with the Redboys looking to avenge their double league defeat last season.

Although John’s went on to smash Jesus 52-8 in the Cuppers Final, the loss of the league for the first time in nearly a decade was taken hard and recapturing the crown is the number one priority this season. The Tab caught up with both captains before Tuesday’s crunch match.

Nick Roope – Jesus

So Nick, an unbeaten start to the season, but not as emphatic as you’d hoped, perhaps?

Certainly we haven’t smashed anyone, but last week’s 33-8 against CCK was a really strong all-round performance.

Roope takes the ball into contact vs Downing

Surely you’re slightly concerned that John’s took Downing apart 45-0 last Tuesday when you only managed 14-3?

Not really. I think that this league is so dependant on the strength of side you can get out on any given week. We’ve struggled pretty badly with injuries, but the important thing is that we got the win. If you think back just two weeks John’s had a few players absent and scraped past Queens’, who are meant to be relegation fodder, 10-9, so I don’t read too much into it.

How’s the injury situation looking for the big game?

Well, better than it has been. We’ve got five players out, which is as close to full strength as we’ve managed this season, but we’ve all been really pleased with the depth in our squad and especially the quality that some of the freshers have shown coming in.

So the side’s looking strong?

Yeah – I play in the u21s along with Tom Hudson, Ollie Exton and Andy Gill, which gives us a decent core to the side and this season the pack have really stepped up – we’ve traditionally been more of a running side.

Fancy your chances?

Of course we’re always confident and the wins last season really broke the aura which I think past generations at John’s had built up. If we do the basics well I’d fancy us, especially at home.

George Hunter – John’s

So George, what’s the feeling in the squad like before El Clasico?

We’re really looking forward to it, to be honest. The team’s starting to gel really nicely so we’re all pretty confident.

The Redboys plot the destruction of Downing

And a great result for you last week…

Absolutely! The Queens’ game had been tricky and fairly attritional so it was great to playing some more flowing rugby. I think 45-0 is John’s best ever result in the fixture so it was the perfect way to prepare.

Is this game about more than just the result?

Yeah, I’d tend to agree. When Jesus turned us over last year they really sent a message out and I think whoever wins on Tuesday will get a huge psychological advantage. That said, I don’t think it’s as simple as whoever wins will take the league, as there’s still the return fixture.

After last year has the League taken precedence over Cuppers for you?

I think the thing that made the Redboys so dominant for so long is that we want to win every time we step out onto the rugby pitch. Obviously after last year regaining the League is our aim but we want to win every match, that doesn’t change.

A rare set-piece loss last tuesday

Finally, how do you see the match panning out?

I think it’s pretty hard to say. We both had good wins last week and I don’t think home advantage will be too big an issue as we’re expecting a big crowd down from John’s. Certainly though, if we play at the level we managed last week they’ll find us pretty hard to stop.

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