Rugby Varsity: Jamie Gray

Building up to this year’s Rugby Varsity, read The Tab’s interview with EURFC Club Captain Jamie Gray

EURFC Jamie Gray Rugby the tab the tab exeter varsity

Ahead of their massive Varsity derby against Bath, The Tab caught up with Jamie Gray to discuss his own Varsity experiences, the importance of this year’s fixture and what lies in store for those coming to watch.

Exeter will play Bath in what promises to be a fierce encounter

Andrew Curtis (AC): Is this your first Varsity?

Jamie Gray (JG): No, I played in last year’s Varsity.

AC: But not the away fixture?

JG: No, last year it was cancelled, and I was meant to play in my first year but I got injured so unfortunately missed out.

AC: So you’ve not experienced the same hostile atmosphere Bath can expect?

JG: No, but I can imagine what it’s like from having played as the home team. We’re meant to be playing them later in the year at The Rec [Bath Rugby’s home ground] so perhaps I’ll see for myself then.

Jamie in line-out action at last year’s Varsity

AC: Is Varsity a BUCS fixture?

JG: Yes it is. Obviously, it’s a big game anyway, but we still have to keep our heads because it’s our last league game and ideally, we need a win and a four try bonus point to enhance our chances of a home quarter-final in the knockout stages.

AC: Does that mean, as there has been in past years, there won’t be a guy over the sound system, giving slightly derisive anecdotes on the various Bath players?

JG: Yeah, we have had that in the past but there is a danger that the result can be reversed if Bath report it so, unfortunately, we will probably have to keep that failry low key this year.

AC: How are the 1st XV fairing this year in the League?

JG: We’re currently 2nd, behind Hartpury. We’ve actually got a crunch game this Wednesday playing Hartpury away. If we were to win that we would close the gap to two points ahead of Varsity. Unfortunately, there are five of us away with England Students but we’ve got a strong squad so, hopefully, we will be okay.

Jamie, one of the five players off to play for England Students

AC: Is it the top two that qualify?

JG: It’s the top four that go through, but the top two get home quarter-finals so there is a real incentive to get this.

AC: Will any freshers be playing in the Varsity?

JG: Well, obviously I don’t know the squad, but the ones who have been playing are George Beale, who is a prop; then three back rowers Harry Ledger, Tom Edwards and Paul Davis and Sam Waltier, who’s playing at scrum-half against Hartpury this Wednesday.

AC: Will the five students going to France with England massively disrupt preparations?

JG: All the guys coming in have all played 1s at some point this year, so they’ve all got experience. To be honest, it will be a great opportunity for them to prove themselves ahead of Varsity.

AC: How many fans are you hoping to get through the gates?

JG: Well last year it was just over 3,000, so if we could emulate that then we would be very pleased.

AC: Will it be the biggest crowd you will have played in front of?

JG: Fortunately for me, I’ve had some opportunities to play for the Chiefs in the A League and in the LV Cup, so I’ve probably played in front of similar-sized crowds before. However, for some of the guys it will definitely be their biggest crowd.

AC: Who would be your Exeter players to watch at the Varsity?

JG: Well if I had to single out one player whose made a real impact for us this year it would be Paul Davis, who plays in the back row and is a powerful runner often breaking the gain line.

Look out for this dynamic back-rower

AC: What about from Bath – any players who you need to watch out for?

JG: Yeah, there are a couple of guys. Their tight head is playing England U20s and their number 8 is a powerful runner, who also plays for the England Students.

AC: Talk us through the Varsity day for those playing.

JG: We just try and stay as relaxed as possible, maybe go and watch the 2s [2nd team] if they’re playing and then get to the ground, sort out strapping and stuff like that, have our own little private time, before the warm up – which only takes about 30 minutes.

Exeter making their way out at last year’s Varsity

AC: Who does the pre-match psyche up if there is one?

JG: Well I say a few words, but I’m not one for mindless “Let’s smash ‘em” rhetoric. I try to keep my words constructive. Ben King, though, is quite good for the more aggressive verbal stuff and Fraser Gillies usually has a few words of wisdom for the backs.

AC: Can we expect an open game?

JG: Well, hopefully the weather won’t be like last year, but if it’s dry we like to play quite wide and so we won’t just be keeping it in the forwards. They’re quite similar to us so it could be end to end.

AC: What was the score earlier this year when we played?

JG: Unfortunately we lost, I think 38-27. But, to be fair, there were a couple of interception tries and one of our players suffered a major injury, which certainly effected some guys. To be honest, it’s just more fuel come Varsity.

Jamie defying all the loutish, drinking stereotypes

Over the next couple of weeks, Jamie would encourage everyone interested to look out for the ticket sellers you’ll see dotted around campus – and The Tab wishes EURFC good luck in Wednesday’s fixture.