Loughborough Rugby and the story of their impressive BUCS season

Loughborough have three BUCS sides top of their respective divisions
©Adedapo Segun and Loughborough Rugby

About to take their next step towards Twickenham, TRU speaks to Ciaran Beattie, George Chuter and Dave Bassett to get an insight into the success behind Loughborough Rugby

From National One down to BUCS Midlands 5A, Ciaran Beattie is first to point out how much of a privilege it is to be associated with Loughborough Students and their rugby programme in the Midlands.

“I have spoken about this a few times, but we have real strength in depth at the club,” the Loughborough Students coach explains. When you look across our teams in terms of the university side of things, they are absolutely flying.

“There are loads of different things to why that is. There is massive competition in training right across the board and that includes our National One side right down to our 5th XV BUCS team. There is not much difference between our 1st XV and 3rd XV making it a great environment to work in.”

A quick glance at the BUCS tables and Beattie and everyone associated with Loughborough has delivered more than enough evidence to back his point up.

On the 3rd February 2016, Loughborough University’s 1st XV were crowned the Premier North A champions and since then, they have gone on and won all 12 of their domestic games this BUCS season, but we should hardly be surprised though.

Loughborough have a National League One team at their disposal and have sensational facilities to play and work in, but that doesn’t automatically mean they will be successful. Dedication, a real ‘one club’ ethos and immense competition for places are factors that have all played a huge part in their remarkable season thus far.

Their 1st XV University side take on Cardiff Met tomorrow in the quarter-finals of the BUCS Champions Trophy and that’ll be their first step on their journey to a Twickenham final. In the last 12 months Beattie, along with George Chuter and Rugby Programme manager Dave Bassett, have overseen Loughborough go from strength to strength.

After suffering a defeat at England HQ last year to Leeds Becektt in the BUCS Champions Trophy Final, silverware this season has already been achieved. A first Championship trophy has become even more likely now for Loughborough with some saying they are favourites for the cup at the end of March. They haven’t lost a game in nearly a year and when they line up at the Rubbercrumb tomorrow evening, they will be keen to make a statement that they are the ones to beat.

“12 from 12 is a great achievement for all involved,” says Beattie, “a great way to finish off our league campaign. We are now focused on Cardiff Met and we know we will have to bring our proud defensive record to the fold in order to get a victory.”

As we speak, Beattie then quickly deflects the praise off himself and is quick to mention the work of Physio Kerry Glendon, Media Manager Liz Tyler and Analyst Sam Branston as well as his coaching staff which again highlights the unity this club has.

We then move on to Loughborough’s National One side. The name of ‘Loughborough Students’ suggests that their team is much younger than the teams also competing at that level, but that thought is quickly batted away. “That’s the incentive for our players. It isn’t a negative that they are younger than most,” says George Chuter who is also on the other end of the phone during our interview.

“We are an open club so we do look to the loan market for players to fill positons, but we do turn a lot of potential dual-registered players away because we see that as blocking the pathway of the players we have developed who have the quality to play National One rugby.”

The pair are also joined by Dave Bassett and I ask all three how the National One side is linked to the BUCS set-up and whether there is a stark difference in quality and players, but Bassett’s simple answer is: “There is an overlap because we have such a good competition for places.”

There are teams across the National Leagues which do have connections with Universities. Blaydon do have players that have represented Newcastle University while Wharfedale have been linked with both Leeds Universities, but Loughborough are in a unique positon because they are the only side to have their own team in the English rugby pyramid.

It came as no surprise to hear Bassett mention that Loughborough are a ‘One Club’ team and not split between National League and BUCS and the longer I spent listening to all three of these Loughborough coaches, the more you realise how seriously they take both avenues of rugby which the club are involved in.

“Our programme offers a great platform for every player across our five teams to develop and better themselves as a player,” Bassett says. “As George and Ciaran pointed out, competition is great and it really benefits our top team. It is a long hard season and National One is a physical league to play in so to have that depth is great.”

Their National One side currently sit 13th in the table, a point clear of the relegation zone. There will be no silverware for the Students in the third tier of English rugby, but there will be joy if they do avoid the drop and maintain their remarkable status in their current division

“Where we are now, is a test of our character, says Bassett. But, like with every aspect of our game whether that be National One or BUCS, I think we approach our game wanting to be the best we can be. We are a development centre and winning and competing is a part of that.

“We take on guys from 18 year-old to around 22/23 years-old and we are there to help them develop as players, but also offer them a great education and open another door for them in their lives. That’s what we see as a privilege.”

It is safe to say that Loughborough Rugby is a remarkable institution to be part of. Whatever level you play at, whatever capacity you are involved in, it seems that it is all about development and the focus is rarely on one specific team.

But tomorrow, the spotlight will be on the university’s men’s 1st XV as they look to go one better than last year and achieve Twickenham glory.