OXFORD University captain Ed David is ready to put in the hard yards as he leads his side into today’s Varsity Match.

The Dark Blues face Cambridge at Twickenham this afternoon in the 138th edition of the fixture.

David has named a starting XV full of experience as Oxford attempt to retain the Rhino Trophy and cut their rivals’ overall series lead.

As a veteran of three Varsity matches, the skipper knows a gruelling afternoon is in store.

“You wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t a challenge. The best things in life are the things you work hardest for,” said the medical student.

“It is a game of rugby at the end of the day and you can’t win with one or two players, you need a collective effort.

“We went on tour to Japan when the World Cup was on and that was a great opportunity for us to build an identity.”

David missed last year’s fixture through injury but is one of 12 players who have played in the fixture before, with fellow wing Tom Stileman making his fifth appearance.

Full back Dan Stoller, former Northampton Saints and Richmond centre Nick Greehalgh and loose head prop Euan Friend all make their Varsity Match debuts.

Meanwhile, ex-skipper George Messum is back at No 8 after returning to the university.

The Dark Blues enjoyed a 15-0 triumph over a Richmond XV last weekend and know victory would leave them just two wins behind Cambridge in the series.

Last year’s 38-16 success mean the Light Blues lead by just 63-60, with 14 drawn matches since 1872.

Cambridge boast the imposing second row pair of former Australian captain James Horwill and ex-South African forward Flip van der Merwe.

The two internationals have 99 caps for their countries between them, adding extra know-how to a team featuring eight Varsity Match veterans.

In the women’s match, Oxford skipper Hazel Ellender has won her race to be fit in time for today’s clash.

The Dark Blues captain has not played since damaging knee ligaments in last month’s win over the Major Stanley’s XV.

She is desperate to claim a first Varsity triumph at the third time of asking.

After Oxford lost 23-5 to Cambridge in the BUCS Premier South last month, Ellender stepped up her team’s preparations.

She said: “We took a couple of days afterwards to reflect on it and I asked my players to remember just how awful it feels to lose to Cambridge.”


Oxford: E Friend (Blundell’s School & University), J Henry (Cambridge House GS & Brasenose), B Parker (Royal Grammar School, Newcastle & Brasenose), J Dix (The Perse School & Oriel), C Pozniak (Manchester GS & St Benet’s Hall), R Jones (Ibstock Place School & St Edmund Hall), S Miller (Harrow School & St Edmund Hall), G Messum (Aylesbury GS & Kellogg), D Stoller (Wellington College & Queen’s), E David (Harrow School & St Hilda’s, captain), N Greenhalgh (Uppingham & Keble), L Jackson (King Edward VI School, Stratford & Oriel), T Stileman (Cranleigh School & Christ Church), T Humberstone (Peter Symonds College & Jesus), G Tressider (Queen Elizabeth GS, Ashbourne & Harris Manchester). Reps: L Wright (Dulwich College & Trinity), A Oswal (The Grammar School, Leeds & St Edmund Hall), B Vaughan (Bradford GS & Corpus Christi), G Warr * (Eton College & New), H Watson (Latymer Upper School & St Edmund Hall), J Dalton (Bedford School & Keble), S Haddock (Cranleigh School & St Edmund Hall) or Henry Hackett (The Perse School & Christ Church), H Martin (Marlborough College & St Benet’s Hall).

Cambridge: C MacCallum (Magdalen Collge School & Downing), M Huppatz (Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School & Downing), E Harborne (Lawrence Sheriff School & Clare), J Horwill (Brisbane Boys College & Queens’), F Van Der Merwe (Grey College & Queens’), T Walton (Nottingham HS & St John’s), S McMahon (Clongowes Wood College & Gonville & Caius), S Leonard (Llandovery College & Emmanuel, captain), C Bell (St Paul’s School & Emmanuel)M Phillips (Bedford Modern School & Emmanuel), F Jemphrey (Sullivan Upper School & Homerton), C Watson (The King’s School, Canterbury & Selwyn), R Triniman (Canford School & Hughes Hall), T Lovelace (Hurstpierpoint College & Hughes Hall), J Gatus (Queen Elizabeth GS, Wakefield & Corpus Christi). Reps: S Schusman (Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School & Magdalene), D Collins (Maria Immaculata Community College, Dunmanway & Fitzwilliam), G Cook (Brighton College & Robinson), R Beckett (Bradford GS & Peterhouse), O Smart (Merchant Taylors’ School & Downing), A Smeaton (Hymers College & Queens’), A Gliksten (Harrow School & Robinson), D Russell (Havant & South Downs College & St John’s).

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