Tab Meets: Rugby League

MADELEINE SKIPSEY talks to the coach and captain of the firsts.

Bumplestiltskin CUARLFC gdbo rugby league Varsity

Everything’s kicking off over at Varsity. We took a trip to Luton to watch the CUARLFC (that’s the Cambridge University Amateur Rugby League Football Club to you) second team battle Oxford. Madeleine Skipsey spoke to Coach Andy Champ and Captain James Tennison ahead of their Varsity Match on Thursday.

James Tennison and Andy Champ

James Tennison and Andy Champ

How has the season been going so far?

CHAMP It’s been really good and near enough a perfect season. We have had a couple of questionable games where we have let ourselves down but otherwise we’ve been pretty good. We had one game recently against Nottingham where in my opinion on the day we were far superior to them. The team have come together really well and we’ve been against some decent competition which has definitely driven us to a higher standard.

TENNISON It’s been the best season in recent memory. We’re unbeaten in the league and we’ve got to a good stage in the cup. One of the guys here this evening has been around for six years or so and he’s confirmed that. We are confident that we are going to rock the boat this year.

Last year the Varsity match was lost 32-4. How has this affected preparation this year?

CHAMP There has been such a strong sense of determination to improve. This year has been the most successful in terms of progression and we’ve had four players selected for the South East England squad so you can really see that there’s been development.

TENNISON Varsity preparation ultimately begins in January at our mid-season tour to Hull. We had record numbers attend that tour and we’ve been trying to step-up training by adding various classes on nutrition and combat. Everyone has been working hard at extra fitness and gym sessions. Like most clubs, we’ve imposed a drinking ban and although it was suggested we haven’t had any secret scouting missions to watch Oxford but we have been looking closely at their results.

The boys in action

The boys in action

How did you feel having four members of the club selected for the South East England squad?

TENNISON I am so proud of the boys who were selected. A handful of guys went down and four (Aidan Devane, Harry Cozens, Fred Bromley and Craig Winfield) were chosen. It’s brilliant for the team, the squad and the club as a whole. These are individuals for others to look up to and the selection demonstrates to the surrounding region how far Cambridge Rugby League has come and how much we have improved.

What selection criteria do you use when choosing the team? Has there been any standout performances or any star players?

TENNISON Champy and I have worked really hard this year to find a team that gels really well and functions together. In League, you are only as good as your inside man and that’s a mantra we have stuck to.

CHAMP The biggest thing for me is that even though you might have very talented individual players – which we do – it’s more important that they fit in with the team itself. Players might not be the strongest individual, but they are selected because they work best in the paired combinations that Rugby League needs.

TENNISON There aren’t really star players or standout performances simply because we work so well as a team. Having spent a couple of hours with the squad, they seem great fun but a bit boisterous! How do you find coaching them in comparison to other clubs?

CHAMP I’ve been coaching for quite some time now but this is my third year coaching Cambridge. They are all obviously quite intelligent and that really helps. With other of open- age teams I have coached, it’s harder to get them to do drills and understand specific shapes and patterns. It often takes a while for them to grasp it but with these guys they understand very quickly which allows us to move forward at a much quicker pace.

As Captain, what will your last words be before you walk out onto the pitch on Thursday?

TENNISON Probably something like “It has been a privilege to lead you guys for the previous year and I want us to go out there, give it our all, have fun and bring the trophy home.”

After seeing the Oxford second team celebrate their win yesterday, the mood on the coach back to Cambridge was light-hearted but resolute. These Rugby boys are ready for battle.

Tickets for the match are still available, for more information visit: http://www.rlvarsity.com/