Leeds Beckett captain Josh Longson is aiming for another trip to Twickenham when the newly formed BUCS Super Rugby league gets underway next Wednesday.
Having previously been split into north and south leagues, this season sees the top eight rugby-playing universities combined into one competition as they battle for a place in the final in March.
Longson and his side begin their new campaign underway at home to Cardiff Met on October 10th and the 23 year-old is raring to get going once again.
“I’ve played at Twickenham a few times but to be able to go there feels a bit surreal,” he said.
“We’ve been here two years in a row, missing out last year, and with this being my last year playing and as captain too, I’d love to go out on a high and to lift that cup.”
Longson was part of the Leeds Beckett side that lifted the BUCS Championship two years ago when they came from behind to beat Loughborough before only reaching the quarter finals last season as they were edged out by Hartpury College.
And despite that disappointment of not been able to defend their title, Longson thinks the new structure in the BUCS leagues can only help his side grow stronger as he aims for glory in his final year with the university.
“I’ve been playing rugby at university for four years, so getting the chance to play at some of the best stadiums in the country and the best teams every week is something I’m really looking forward to,” he told the BUCS website.
“We’ve got northern rivals, but Durham and Hartpury are the two fixtures we’re looking out for. Hartpury has always been a bit of a grudge match for us, and Durham are a team we’ve played year in year out, so we know quite a lot about them and they’re always an interesting clash.
“With the BUCS Super League this year, we’ll be playing big games every week so they will be a huge help for us."
With the new format, it means that the likes of Leeds Beckett will go head to head with some of the top southern universities at a much earlier stage of the campaign and one of those sides will be last year’s champions Exeter University.
Keith Fleming’s men went unbeaten throughout last season and vice-captain Simon Linsell is hoping Exeter can make their mark in this new structure.
“I’m really excited. It’s an unprecedented competition format for university in the country and we’re really excited to playing tough games every week.” He added: We’re playing the best in the country and hopefully we can make the best out of the first time that’s happened.”
Along with Exeter, Leeds will be taking on teams such as Hartpury and Bath more regularly this term. Both of those sides have been strong at this level over the past few years and both are itching to be part of a Twickenham final in March 2017.
“At this stage, with the quality of teams you have in the league, there are no easy games and every week is quarter-final rugby for us, said new University of Bath captain Will Britton.
Harpury captain Sebastian Negri added: “The last few seasons have been a little bit disappointing for us, getting to the semi-finals, but hopefully we can push on and go all the way.
“So it’s a big effort needed from the boys this year. But I honestly believe we can do it, we’ve got a great team, great staff behind us and a great squad.”
Hartpury were beaten by finalists Loughborough at the semi-final stage six months ago and skipper Issac Miller wants to go one better this term and also highlighted Leeds Beckett as one of their main rivals.
The Scotland U20 international said: “The biggest rivals for us will be Durham, Exeter and Leeds Beckett. There has always been history with Durham so that will be a big game, and Exeter we’ve got in the first game of the season which will certainly be one to look out for.
“We’ve been in the final for the past two years and not managed to win it, so we’re after that, we know it’s going to be tougher than ever but we’re raring to go.”
Leeds Beckett’s first opponents will be Cardiff Met who had a fine season last term. Quarter-finalists at XV a-side level was followed up by success at the 7s tournament in Leeds and now captain Ryan Roach is hoping they can build on that this campaign.
He said: “With the league we’re in, every team are going to be hard to beat. You look at the fixture list and there’s not an easy one on there.
““I’m looking forward to it and hopefully this season we can emulate the success we’ve had in previous seasons, perform well and do our coaches proud.”