The Varsity Match: Meet Oxford’s Heroes

The Tab tells you all you need to know about this year’s OURFC varsity side.

It’s the biggest day in the Oxbridge sporting calendar.

On Thursday, our band of world-beaters will march out at Twickenham, ready to claim their deserved fourth consecutive title over that lot from the other place.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably an Oxford student, and you’re probably watching the game, so you know what’s inevitably going to happen – you’re going to get friends and family asking you non-stop whether you know that guy.

The Tab is here to make your bluffing sound plausible.

Front Row

Lewis Anderson

Four Varsity Matches and these were the only photos we could find. Props get no props.

Previously: Substitute in 2010 and 2011, starter in 2012.

College: Trinity

Who?: A club stalwart, Anderson will feature in his fourth straight Varsity Match. An understated grinder who excels in the scrum, we can’t wait to see what way of maintaining eligibility he latches onto following his master-stroke of pursuing a MSc in sociology for 2013/14.

Top fact: Backed up Hamish McDonald in 2010 and 2011, before having Hamish back him up in 2012 and 2013.

Nick Gardner

I’m not sure how these are all the same person, frankly.

Previously: Starter in 2012.


Who?: Pretty nice story, this once. He’s an Oxford native and was a ball-boy for OURFC as a youngster; having done his undergrad at Birmingham, he returned home last year on a PGCE. He’ll hope to put it all together after a good year that saw him captain the Oxbridge U23s in the annual services game.

Top fact: While a student at Magdalen College School in 2003, he won a literary competition to have tea with fantasy author Phillip Pullman.

Ian Williams

I don’t want to know where those fingers have been.

Previously: None.

College: Wolfson

Who?: One of just two new Blues in the starting XV, Williams comes to Oxford after a strong career in Swansea that saw him turn out for the university team (including a start in the annual ‘Welsh Varsity’ against Cardiff), the local Welsh Premier Division side, and the national student team. Williams brings some serious size to this Oxford side at a listed height and weight of 6’3″ 266 lbs.

Top fact: This isn’t actually Williams’ first time at Twickenham – he featured for the Welsh Students team against their English counterparts there in 2012.

Back row

Michael Rickner

So I don’t buy that this guy is only 26. I’m also looking into the possibility he might actually be Donald Trump.

Previously: Substitute in 2012.

College: St Anne’s

Who?: Another teacher-to-be, the former Exeter (the university, not the college) theology student has been in and around the Oxford setup for a few years now, but only made his Varsity debut last year, aged 25. Ricker is no stranger to the limelight, having played for English Universities and featuring a number of times for top-flight side Exeter Chiefs, albeit back in their lower-league days.

Top fact: Sponsored by the school where he’s a RE teacher. I don’t know how that works.

Will Rowlands

That first photo is a Phil Jones-level face.

Previously: Starter in 2011 and 2012.

College: Pembroke

Who?: Went to Rugby School; insert your own crap joke here. The lanky 6’7″ lock has serious pro prospects – currently on the final year of an E&M course, he’s currently in the London Wasps setup and actually started an Aviva Premiership game last January for them alongside future England international Sam Jones. He’s also a feature in the England Universities side, and was called up to the World Universities Barbarians this summer.

Top fact: Described by as “A Lurch (with an annoying habit of taking photo’s)” [sic]. The author can relate. You can buy him in Aviva Fantasy Rugby for a mere £315,000.

James Harris

Welsh Rugby Forum – Whay have I never heard of James Harris ? › … › Welsh Rugby › Welsh Rugby Forum‎
26 Aug 2011 – 10 posts – ‎4 authors

Previously: Starter in 2011 and 2012.

College: Kellogg

Who?: 26-year-old Harris has had quite the journey to date. The Eltham College-educated flanker got his BSc from Cardiff and then spent several years as a professional player – first with the Newport Gwent Dragons from 2006 to 2010, and then a stretch of time with the London Wasps – before coming to Oxford on a MSc in sustainable urban development last year. Actually featured alongside Rowlands on the latter’s Wasps debut.

Top fact: Has his own YouTube highlight reel.  Has his own Wikipedia page. Will set you back a cool £465,000 in fantasy rugby.

Gus Jones

You’re never getting the stains off that chair.

Previously: Substitute in 2012.

College: St Catherine’s

Who?: The Old Etonian played almost the entire game last year, replacing John Carter early on after the latter went down with an injury. A current member of the London Wasps setup, Jones has captained various youth teams, most notably leading the England U18s to an European Championship.

Top fact: A tale from @OURFCblues: “Gus Jones “All this rugby is getting in the way of my gym” – no more excuses Jonester time to shift some tin #shutupandsquat.”

John Carter

A glorious emblem of Oxford rugby.

Previously: Starter in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

College: Kellogg

Who?: The man. The myth. The legend. Currently in an unprecedented third term as OURFC captain, Carter played professionally for the Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers until repeated injuries brought his career to a close at 26; he just couldn’t stay away from the sport, however, and has now been a staple on the side for several years. He’s now led Oxford to two straight, and will be looking for the historic three-peat.

Top fact: Let’s just go with the 2011 highlights in general. Dominant defensive showing, courageous, determined, and just look at that black eye…


Samson Egerton

So, you’re called Samson. And you put in a MotM performance looking like that. And then…you cut your hair? Good lord, man. This never ends well. Read a book, damn it.

Previously: Starter in 2011 and 2012.

College: Keble

Who?: One-half of the returning pair of half-backs, Egerton will be hoping it all adds up to another Varsity win. He was one of the surprise stars of last year’s match – he started at full-back to accommodate current London Wasps pro Stuart Commins, scoring a try from there, but was moved back to scrum-half after the latter went down, and was the architect in the next two trys that crowned a stunning comeback. He’ll be hoping for another big game – he admitted to the Cherwell last year that he expects to get “a solid 2:2”, so he needs that professional attention…

Top fact: Officially the grossest player in the team by virtue of this tweet detailing the results of skidding on Saracens’ artificial pitch. Not for the squeamish.

Jonathan Hudson

That middle image was originally captioned “Oxford’s Jon Hudson is eased off the ball”. Understatement of the century goes to…

Previously: Starter in 2011 and 2012.

College: Lincoln

Who?: Hudson is that nowadays-rare OURFC player with senior international experience. Well, OK, that’s pushing it a bit. He stars for the Swiss national team – a team currently in the same European Nations Cup division as Malta and Lithuania. Nonetheless, he’s been a handy player for the Blues this year, including filling in at full-back and then putting up a try in the OURFC-Russia game; after a long career that’s seen him graduate from U21 to Greyhounds to full Blue, he’ll be raring to go for his presumptive swansong.

Top fact: Sponsored by a doctor; always a good sign for a sportsman.


Henry Hughes

I mean, really, what’s the point of jumping off a plane if you can’t get a selfie out of it?

Previously: Substitute in 2012.

College: Magdalen

Who?: What is it with medics and sporting prowess? Making his debut last year in relief of Hudson, the rapid young winger is quickly rising through the ranks at OURFC, and is the second-youngest member of the side ahead of only Henry Lamont. We don’t think he’s the same Henry Hughes that starred for Hertford on their Mongolia tour, but we’ve been wrong before.

Top fact: Found time this summer to coach rugby in a Rio de Janeiro favela.

Gav Turner

A man of many faces.

Previously: Starter in 2011 and 2012.

College: Kellogg

Who?: The only non-Carter member of the squad in his 30s, Turner has had a long career in amateur and semi-professional rugby, including representing Newbury for several years in the National League 1. Another future teacher (combining his MSc with a post at the prestigious Marlborough College), he’s another one of those quiet players who brings it year after year for Oxford. Though we’re sure he wouldn’t mind a try this year.

Top fact: Counterpart Henry Hughes may be over a decade his junior, but they have one thing in common – they both represented Winchester RFC at junior levels.

Matt Janney

Look at that jumper. Just look at it. Bask in the glory.

Previously: Substitute in 2011.

College: Oriel

Who?: It’s a return to West London for the King’s College School Wimbledon graduate. Bit of an odd Varsity career to date; he was a late sub as a fresher in 2011 and actually made a conversion in relief of Cassian Bramhan-Law, but he was absent last year, and this will be his first start. He’s also a third-year French and Russian student; aren’t they usually off gallivanting around Europe at about this time? I think we should be told.

Top fact: Prior to his selection, told a local newspaper: ““I guess for me, it would be incredibly special to play at Twickenham…I remember hearing the roar of the crowd as a kid and was inspired by it, so if selected, having the opportunity to run out on to that pitch representing my university, would be a truly unique experience.” D’aww.

Henry Lamont

The original version of the photo on the left is amazing and I highly recommend looking up his Twitter to see it.

Previously: Starter in 2012.

College: New

Who?: The shortest OURFC starter by a good three inches, the dimunitive Lamont was selected as a starter to the Varsity Match last year as an 18-year-old. Apparently that’s a “rare distinction” but I don’t think he’s even the only person on the current team to have done so. In any case, it’s been a great year for him – he’s scored on the Russians, he’s scored on the Worcester Warriors, it’s only a matter of time…

Top fact: “Would really like to listen to @stephenfry reading some Harry potter right now, would be ideal for going to sleep”


Jacob Taylor

This is what sevens does to a man.

Previously: None.

College: Keble

Who?: Continuing the proud tradition of ringer backs, we have Jacob Taylor. Here on a Rhodes Scholarship to get his MSc in Neuroanthropology, he’s taking some time out from his day job – that being, captain of the Australian national rugby sevens team. He also boasts a number of non-playing rugby posts on his CV, having coached the Chinese youth sevens team, and worked for the Australian Rugby Union as a consultant. Taylor (or 李杰, as he’s known in China) should be a major catalyst for success in this OURFC side.

Top fact: He’ll still only be 29 for the 2016 Summer Olympics, where rugby sevens will be a sport – a future Oxonian Olympian? Also has a highlight reel which I think he actually made himself which is yeah.