The next instalment of the Varsity Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University takes place next week and after the Light Blues clinched both titles in 2017, will history repeat itself this year?
Dom Waldouck has revealed it would be unbelievable if he could lead Oxford University to Varsity glory at Twickenham next week.
The Dark Blues have not tasted success in the iconic fixture for two years, with their latest result being a 20-10 defeat against Cambridge just under 12 months ago.
The Oxford captain believes his side can learn from their loss in 2017 and use that in order to produce a more complete performance at England HQ.
“It would be unbelievable to lift the trophy for Oxford,” Waldouck said.
“One of my first rugby experiences was coming to the Varsity game with my Dad. He said to me when we walked up to the stadium – ‘Who is it going to be? Dark Blues or Light Blues?’ – and I said Dark Blues!
??@OURFCblues & @OURFCWomen Skippers @domwaldouck & Abby D’Cruz name their squads ahead of the ??2018 @VarsityMatch against ?? @CURUFC @CURUFCW at Twickenham on 6 Dec.— OURFC (@OURFCblues) November 26, 2018
Starting to get very excited now. https://t.co/eHbwjoowAx#ShoeTheTabs #oxbridgerugby #VM2018 #WearTheCrown
“Last year was tough because we had a brilliant season, but we just couldn’t translate that form on to the day. If you don’t do that, then all of the success you have had earlier in the season means nothing.
“We will be judged on the result on the 6th [of December]. We have raised last year within the group and we are aware of it. It’s a difficult one dealing with these big game situations, but we want to put our best game out there.”
Waldouck is certainly no stranger to the ‘big game situations.’ He currently balances his degree whilst being contracted to Gallagher Premiership side Newcastle Falcons and the centre also won the Heineken Cup during an eight-year spell with Wasps at the beginning of his career.
"The first exposure I got to big games was about the same age as the Oxford lads I am playing with now which is 18, 19, 20-years-old," added Waldouck.
“I think I can offer some insight and relate to the feelings they are going through and give them some advice from my perspective, but is a huge occasion for myself as well.
“It is not every day you get the chance to come and play at Twickenham and lead out an Oxford team so it is a daunting prospect for myself!”
Waldouck will have the likes of former Saracens man Ben Ransom, Chris Bell, George Tresidder and England Sevens centre Jake Hennessey alongside him at Twickenham next week, but there is also no shortage of experience amongst the Cambridge ranks.
Light Blues captain Nick Koster has featured in Super Rugby as well as representing both Bath and Bristol in this country while players such as former Harlequins lock George Robson could be key as Cambridge go in search of another Varsity title.
James Shanahan’s will head to Twickenham on the back of four wins against Pacific Islanders, Trinity College Dublin, Crawshays and Steele Bodger XV, but Koster admits Cambridge are not getting too far ahead of themselves.
“We have won our last four, but you don’t really always know how good your competition is because you are just playing friendlies,” said the South African. “We are not reading too much into that because Oxford will be a very different game, but we are going to take the confidence from it.”
A victory for the Light Blues next week would mean a third Varsity triumph in a row for the first time since 2007, but after claiming the bragging rights for the last couple of years, Koster insists it doesn’t add any extra pressure on Cambridge.
He added: “We wouldn’t be feeling any less pressure if we had lost last year. It is a high-pressure game because it is something we really want to achieve and something we have worked very hard for. The important thing is to try and control what you can and that is your own personal performance.
?? BREAKING NEWS ?? | @OURFCblues & @CURUFC teams have been named for the 137th Men's Varsity Match on Thursday 6 December at Twickenham Stadium. Find out the full line-ups here ?? https://t.co/9JAeotzEDn pic.twitter.com/V8awNNL6is— The Varsity Match ?? (@VarsityMatch) November 26, 2018
“The fixture is so unique. I have played in big games before, but it is important that this high emotion game has a positive effect on the performance. You want to try and balance that to make sure we stick to the processes we have been practicing all season as well as tapping into that emotional energy to produce a performance full of intensity.”
After being part of the Cambridge side which triumphed in 2017, Koster will now be leading the Light Blues out at Twickenham and a victory at the start of next month would be a personal highlight for the back-rower.
“It would mean a huge amount,” said Koster. "I have played a huge amount of professional rugby and I grew up dreaming of playing the game professionally when I started at the age of six.
“The amateur values are the reasons why I fell in love with the game so to finish my career off in this setting and playing a game with a bunch of people because they love to play and who I get along with so well, would be really special.
“I am really looking forward to it and I hope the result goes our way, but either way, it will just be an incredible experience for me.”
Cambridge University women’s captain Kate Marks has picked several of her team mates from last season’s victory over arch-rivals Oxford to join her at Twickenham for this year's Women’s Varsity Match.
The game, which will be played on December 6th, will mark the 30th anniversary of the first women’s match and Marks, a try scorer in the Light Blues’ 24-0 triumph last year, is hoping her side’s run of good league form this season will lead to another Varsity win.
Both the Cambridge Women’s and Men’s teams triumphed last season, although Marks is wary of the fact Oxford have been playing in a higher division in the BUCS Championship this season.
"It is always lovely to be a captain of a winning side!," Marks exclusively told TRU. "Our recent form really does give us some confidence. There is obviously a danger which comes with confidence and that is complacency so that is something we are really keen to ensure doesn't happen.
"There is never a sense of complacency going into a cup final. It is always a 50-50 and nothing can be written off. We would be silly to underestimate what Oxford can bring and they will be looking to hit us hard and make up for that decisive victory which we had last season.
?? Here is the @CURUFCW Varsity Match Squad that will take on @OURFCWomen at Twickenham on Thursday 6 December, 11.30KO in the 30th anniversary of the Women’s Varsity Match ?? #varsitymatch #curufc #cambridge pic.twitter.com/IaIVXRS5ri— The Varsity Match ?? (@VarsityMatch) November 26, 2018
"To have 12 returning Blues in the squad is massive. It brings a huge amount of experience which can always be an advantage when you are playing at somewhere like Twickenham which is alien to so many players.
"Squad selection is something that is never easy so it is credit to the girls for making that hard for us. I have complete and utter faith in the squad myself and the coaches have selected and I am sure they will do us proud on Varsity day."
Marks took over from Lara Gibson as captain this season, although Gibson will be in the side at full back to add her experience. Centre Mary Coleman will be winning her third Blue, while No 8 Emily Pratt will be looking to make some dents in the Oxford defence with her strong carrying.
As for Oxford, they have moved their star player, Sophie Trott, from full back to centre, where she will partner new captain Abby D’Cruz.
"Our preparation has been really good," D'Cruz told TRU. "There is a lot of excitement within the camp at the moment. We are up there in the top division of BUCS which basically means we have had the opportunity to play against some of the best teams in the country.
?? Here is the @OURFCWomen Varsity Match Squad that will take on @CURUFCW at Twickenham on Thursday 6 December, 11.30KO in the 30th anniversary of the Women’s Varsity Match ?? #varsitymatch #ourfc #oxford pic.twitter.com/jaRlWqggi2— The Varsity Match ?? (@VarsityMatch) November 26, 2018
"That is a massive privilege and it adds a lot to our preparation. We really want to make sure we are taking that tempo and our processes into next week. That is probably the biggest thing that playing in that upper division has given us; the ability to hold our game under pressure and that can help us.
"There is so much history and tradition surroundings this match and this year is an historic year with 30 years of this fixture. Having the opportunity to lead these guys out next week will be special and it should be a cracking match."
Tickets for the 30th Anniversary of Women’s Varsity Match and 137th Men’s Varsity Match at Twickenham on Thursday, 6 December, are still available from £25 adults, £15 students and £10 juniors. Buy online at www.thevarsitymatch.com