Oxford select an imposing pack, while Cambridge find room for their crocked captain.
The squads for December 8th’s Varsity Match were announced today at Twickenham. They are:
1. Will Briggs (Magdelene)
2. Nigel Conroy (Hughes)
3. Stuart Brown* (Clare)
4. Jason Kururangi* (St Edmund’s)
5. Scott Annett (Clare)
6. Ben Martin* (St Catharine’s)
7. Rob Malaney (St Edmund’s)
8. David Allen (Pembroke)
9. Don Blake (Hughes Hall)
10. Steve Townend (Downing)
11. Rob Stevens* (Jesus)
12. Kristian Cooke (Hughes)
13. Matt Guinness-King* (St Catharine’s, Captain)
14. Paul Loudon* (St Edmund’s)
15. Tom O’Toole (St Edmund’s)
16. Mark Murdoch (St Edmund’s)
17. Frank Sanders (Magdalene)
18. Sam Young (Emmanuel)
19. Ollie Wolfe (Christ’s)
20. Sam Hunt* (Girton)
21. Greg Cushing* (Ridley Hall)
22. Mathonwy Thomas (St John’s)
23. Fergus Austin (Gonville & Caius)
1. Hamish McDonald* (Wadham)
2. Govind Oliver* (Green Templeton)
3. Will Kane* (University)
4. Karl Outen* (St Edmund Hall)
5. Tom Evans* (St Hugh’s)
6. Derek Asburn (Kellogg)
7. Louis Mather* (University)
8. John Carter* (Kellogg, Captain)
9. Sam Egerton (Keble)
10. Tom Mitchell (Kellogg)
11. Cassian Bramham Law (Hertford)
12. Gavin Turner (Kellogg)
13. Sebastian Perkins (St Edmund Hall)
14. Sean Morris * (Trinity)
15. Jon Hudson (Lincoln)
16. Anthony Connor* (Keble)
17. Lewis Anderson* (University)
18. Jason Law (Kellogg)
19. Jamie Durward (Kellogg)
20. Ruairi O’Donavon (Exeter)
21. Harry Guinness* (St Anthony’s)
22. Matt Janney (Oriel)
23. Jonathan Direen (Kellogg)
* Returning Blue
For those who have been following the Blues this season, the squad holds few surprises.
The main issue has been the fitness or otherwise of captain, Matt Guinness King. Out for most of the season with a muscle injury, King finally made his return in the match against Saracens at Grange Road.
However, after attempts to tackle England’s U20s’ captain with his face were unsuccessful he was taken off with concussion. A further half hour against London Scottish were all Cambridge’s captain could manage going into the big day and so he starts at Twickenham with less than 80 minutes’ rugby under his belt.
The recent game against London Scottish
This is particularly hard on Mathonwy Thomas, who has deputised excellently at 13 all season and has scored tries in his last two appearances. However, the inclusion of King with his big game experience – he has played against the All Blacks at the World Cup – should provide a solid base for the quicker runners in the back three.
The other main selection dilemma was the choice between Don Blake and Sam Hunt. Hunt started at Twickenham last year but has had his work cut out for him by the arrival of the post-grad from Nottingham. The two of them have shared halves of each game in the run-up to selection, and it would be no surprise to see the Blues repeating the pattern with Hunt coming off the bench late in the game.
In the pack, the emphasis is clearly on experience, as Cambridge are never going to match Oxford’s giants punch for punch. Kuruangi and Annett in the second row will have a hard day’s work, but the sight of St. Edmund’s huge New Zealander making enough ground to crunch nearly every member of London Scottish’s pack in the last match will have heartened worried coaches.
Hunt and Cushing both provide Blues experience off the bench but it is worth looking out for Ollie Wolfe, the second year who nailed a 45 -metre drop-goal in last year’s U21 game. If he takes to the field the traditional CURUFC wolf howl should fill Twickenham nicely.
The squad looks convincingly balanced going into the big day. If Cambridge can play their own game and work the ball to the backs they should be favourites to win. But with Oxford fielding seven Blues, expect the hard yards to be needed up front before Stevens, Loudon and O’Toole can be freed. Things are heating up nicely.
If you want top listen to Guinness King’s thought on the game, you can hear him, along with Club Secretary, Jack Lewars and Tab Sports Editor, Rupert Mercer on CamFM’s preview show here.