Experienced squads selected for Rugby Varsity

Harry Peck has promised his Cambridge University players won’t look back at the results of the four previous Varsity Matches when they turn up at Twickenham Stadium on Thursday, 11 […]

Harry Peck has promised his Cambridge University players won’t look back at the results of the four previous Varsity Matches when they turn up at Twickenham Stadium on Thursday, 11 December for the 133rd Varsity Match.

Oxford may be heading to the home of English rugby seeking a record fifth successive triumph, but scrum half Peck believes there is enough talent, potential and desire within his Light Blues squad to turn the tables and avert any further humiliation next week.

Joy - the peak of the day for Cambridge, as we score in the first half.

Will Cambridge’s experienced line up get them some joy?

Peck will be one of 10 returning Blues in the Cambridge starting line-up with a further three on the bench. All bar one of them, flanker Richard Bartholomew, have never tasted victory in their game of the season.

29-year-old Bartholomew returns to the Cambridge line-up for a fourth Varsity Match seven years on from his last battle with the Dark Blues. That ended as the first two had done, with Cambridge winning, and at the age of 22 he decided to hang up his boots.

But now he is not only back at Cambridge, doing post graduate research, but back in the game. A win next week would put him alongside Carl Aarvold (1925-28) and Richard Bramley (1994-1997) as the only Cambridge players to win four times at the Varsity Match.

Oxford running home one of their 3 tries

Or will Oxford’s talented side give us the runaround?

Bartholomew will join Sam Farmer and Hugo Kelly in a well established back row who will be given the task of maintaining Cambridge’s high standards in defence to date this season and trying to ensure some quick, quality possession for Peck to feed his talented back division.

“Richard is big, he’s hard and he’s been there and done it before. He’s a warrior and he is going to help to bring an edge to our performance,” said Peck.

“It’s good that we are taking a team with a lot of experience back to Twickenham. Sometimes you can get caught up in the emotion of the occasion and settle for playing at Twickenham and winning a Blue.

“But the attitude from everyone this year has been about going to Twickenham to win the game – nothing else. If we go into the game thinking about the last few years that will be a self-defeatist attitude.

“What has happened on the big day in recent years will certainly provide us with some motivation, but we believe that if we play to our full potential for 80 minutes we can win.

varsity 3

The home of rugby

“This is an incredibly driven group of players who have come together really well this term. Our results have been encouraging, parts of our performances have been excellent and the task now is to put all the best bits together and make them into a whole.

“We’ve worked on our scrum and line-out and know that if we and win some quality ball we have a back line that can cause damage. It promises to be a great occasion and a great contest.”

The Light Blues rounded off their match preparation with a 29-8 defeat to Leicester Tigers on Monday night, but coaches Andy Key and Julian Salvi have seen them beat Bristol United and Coventry.

Outgunned up front last season, Peck has given four of last year’s pack the chance to make amends against an Oxford eight that includes the same front row trio that did all the damage a year ago, Lewis Anderson, Nick Gardner and Ian Williams. That has prompted Peck to promote last season’s Under 21 prop Jacob Poulton to the tight head role alongside his predecessor as captain, Will Briggs, and Tom Pascoe.

Such has been the Dark Blues dominance over their fierce rivals in recent years that they will start the 133rd Varsity Match as overwhelming favourites. Last year’s 33-15 victory made it a record equalling four wins in a row for Oxford, who are now homing in on Cambridge’s overall best of five successive victories.

The squads for both sides in full below:

OXFORD UNIVERSITY: Jacob Taylor * (Canberra GS & Keble, Captain); Ed Doe * (Llandaff Cathedral School & Kellogg), Matt Janney * (KCS Wimbledon & Oriel), Alexander Macdonald * (Diocesan College, SA & St Peter’s), Henry Lamont * (Cranleigh & New); George Cullen (Bishop’s Stortford College & Kellogg), Sam Egerton * (Adams’ GS & Keble); Lewis Anderson * (Bexley GS & Trinity), Nick Gardner * (Magdalen College School & St Anne’s), Ian Williams * (Sherborne & Kellogg), Fergus Taylor (Sherborne & Regent’s Park), Tom Reeson-Price * (Eastbourne College & Lady Margaret Hall), Fraser Heathcote * (The Leys & St Edmund Hall), Gus Jones * (Eton & St Catherine’s), George Messum (Aylesbury GS & St Anne’s)
Replacements: James Wisson * (Dulwich College & St Anne’s), James Scaife (Altrincham GS & Linacre), Guy Western (Santa Barbara, Cal & Pembroke), Graeme MacGilchrist * (George Watson’s College & University), Will Thomas (Brynteg CS & Somerville), Henry de Berker (Cotham CS & Green Templeton), Henry Hughes * (Peter Symonds College & Magdalen), Basil Strang (RGS Newcastle & St Stephen’s House)

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY: Sam Allen (QEGS Wakefield & Robinson); Ilia Cherezov * (Bedford School & St John’s), Toby May * (Skinners’ School & Homerton), Fraser Gillies (Edinburgh Academy & Hughes Hall), George Smith (Glenalmond College & Jesus); Don Stevens *(Grey College, SA & St Edmund’s), Harry Peck * (Bedford School & Homerton, Captain); Will Briggs * (Bedford School & Magdelene), Tom Pascoe * (Truro School & St John’s), Jacob Poulton (Portsmouth GS & Clare), Jack Baker * (Woodhouse Grove & St John’s), Rob Hall (Ermysted’s Grammar & Downing), Richard Bartholomew * (Berkhamsted School & Jesus), Hugo Kelly * (KCS Wimbledon & St John’s), Sam Farmer * (Bedford School & Wolfson)
Replacements: Max Montgomery (Bangor GS & Emmanuel), Oliver Exton (Notts HS & Selwyn), Frank Sanders * (Oundle & Magdelene), Charlie O’Sullivan * (Midleton College & Wolfson), Daniel Dass (Belfast Royal Academy & St Catharine’s), Seb Tullie * (Bradford GS & Emmanuel), John Wylde (Eton & Downing), Andy Rees (St Paul’s School & St Catharine’s)