Bristol Rugby full back Charlie Amesbury will follow in the footsteps of Jamie Roberts by winning a Blue for Cambridge in the 135th Varsity Match at Twickenham Stadium on Thursday, 8 December (kick-off 2.30pm).
On the field, the former England Sevens international Amesbury was given two months off from his professional contract by Aviva Premiership side Bristol to compete for a Blue. Off it, he has been studying hard this term having started a two-year Masters degree in Social Innovation at the Judge Business School with an eye on moving into business or farming after rugby.
“I play better when I’ve got something else going on in my life. Since arriving at Cambridge the emphasis has largely been on the academic work, but it’s something I’m enjoying,” said the 30-year-old Amesbury, who has studied at Kingston and Manchester Universities in the past.
“I’ve had a career in rugby for more than 10 years, but I’ve always had an eye on educating myself alongside rugby. I’ve wanted to try to play for Cambridge for a number of years, but I’ve always had a contract that stopped me from leaving rugby.
“If I can have a quiet game and the rest of the boys have the games of their lives then that would be perfect for me. It is a big thing for Cambridge, the University and the city, to try to get this win.
“The pressure is all on Oxford because they have won so many times – it is on them to lose it. We are just going to go out there and play some good running rugby.”
Amesbury will line-up at full back at Twickenham as one of nine new Blues in the starting XV before heading back to Bristol the following week to prepare for a European Rugby Challenge Cup clash with Pau.
While Oxford have won six Varsity Matches in a row, the Light Blues will go into the big game on the back of a four match winning streak that culminated in a 52-26 win over the Steele-Bodger’s XV. Lose head prop Will Briggs will equal the record of six Blues shared by Herbert Fuller (Cambridge 1878-1883) and Lewis Anderson (Oxford 2010-2015) as he goes in search of his first win in his final Varsity Match.
Tom Stanley, who was understudy to current Leicester Tigers back row man Brendon O’Connor when he was captain of Hawkes Bay Magpies, is another player with professional experience in the Cambridge line-up. The 26-year-old, who already has a 1st Class honours degree in engineering from Canterbury University, is studying alongside Amesbury at the Judge Business School and is one of six new Blues in the pack.
There will be two Irishmen joining Stanley in the Light Blues’ back row in former Trinity College, Dublin flanker Brian du Toit and Belfast-born skipper Daniel Dass. Dass will lead the side from No 8 and will be hoping it is third time lucky for him after ending up on the losing side in 2014 and 2015.
“Even though we lost, 2015 was a fantastic experience and a great game. It was so disappointing to lose, but it was still a great season that built us as a team and me as a person,” said Dass.
“We’ve gathered a bit of momentum with four wins in a row, but we know that that still won’t be good enough on the day against Oxford. Their first-phase defence and desire will be much greater than we have faced recently.
“We will have to play better than we have been doing to win at Twickenham. We’ve had some highly competitive games and, when we stick to our structures, we look really good.”
The 31-year-old Richard Bartholomew will be aiming to win his fifth Blue off the Cambridge bench, while Lola Erogbogbo will be hoping his identical twin, Lare, can come on to make it a family double after he won his Blue as a replacement last year.
The 135th Varsity Match and the 30th Women’s Varsity Match between Oxford and Cambridge will return to Twickenham on Thursday 8th December, with tickets on sale now. 2 for 1 adult tickets are now available online on all £28 ticket categories.
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY VARSITY TEAM 2016
15. Charlie Amesbury (Lord Wandsworth College & Queens’)
14. Simon Davies (Latymer Upper School & Jesus) *
13. Rory Triniman (Canford School & Hughes Hall)
12. Michael Phillips (Bedford Modern School & Emmanuel) *
11. Henry King (Chipping Campden School & St Catharine’s)
10. Fraser Gillies (Edinburgh Academy & Hughes Hall) *
9. Sebastian Tullie (Bradford Grammar School & Emmanuel) *
1. William Briggs (Bedford School & Magdalene) *
2. Andrew Burnett (RGS High Wycombe & Jesus)
3. Jonathan Dixon (Royal School, Armagh & Downing)
4. Andrew Hunter (Cranbrook School & St Edmund’s)
5. Tim Bond (Watford Grammar School & Pembroke)
6. Tom Stanley (St Andrew’s College, Christchurch & Magdalene)
7. Brian Du Toit (The King’s Hospital, Dublin & St Edmund’s)
8. Daniel Dass (Belfast Royal Academy & St Catharine’s, captain) *
16. Simon Hugkulstone (Whitgift School & Wolfson)
17. Henry Somers (Silverdale School & Hughes Hall)
18. Demitri Moros (Hampton School & St John’s)
19. Lola Erogbogbo (Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School & Clare) *
20. Richard Bartholomew (Berkhamsted School & Jesus) *
21. Chris Bell (St Paul’s School & Girton)
22. Lare Erogbogbo (Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School & Jesus)
23. George Griffiths (Adams’ Grammar School & St John’s)
* Denotes Blue