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A history of the Varsity Match: Oxford vs Cambridge

January 19, 2022 2 min read

Back when the Barbarians RFC was founded, most of its players were either part of the Oxford or Cambridge team. There is a time of the year though, normally during 'May week', where students from these two universities become sworn enemies for 80 minutes. This is of course the Varsity match.

The Varsity Rugby Match has had various different formats such as 15s and 7s over the years.

These days the sides are mostly filled with undergrads, little of who have any experience at the highest level, but it wasn't always that way. Internationals, such as Gavin Hastings, father of Adam and Lions all time top point scorer, ran out for the light blues. One cap, Springbok Dugald Macdonald, played in two varsity matches, captaining Oxford in his second year.

There have been a couple big names recently though, with James Horwill, ex Aussie Skipper, playing in the 2019 Varsity match. Lions legend, Jamie Roberts, has also run out for Cambridge(2015), but even with his might, the side went down 12-6 to Oxford.

The first varsity match was played in 1872, and was won by Oxford. Cambridge won the next year, with the following two both ending in draws. Setting the precedent for what is generally a closely contsted fixture.

The most recent match took place at Welford Road, with Oxford claiming victory. Cambridge are the last side to win at Twickenham though, beating Oxford in 2019.

Having played 139 times, Cambridge have won 64 and Oxford have won 61. Do some quick maths and work out how many draws.

The Women’s Varsity Match was first played on 10th March 1988 at Iffley Road, Oxford. Oxford have won 14 and Cambridge 19.

The Varsity Match is more than just an annual rugby game. It is a clash of cultures between the country's best universities and also gives undergrads the opportunity to play in front of some of the biggest crowds in club rugby.



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