By Matt Abbott for London Student
Rugby Union and memories; the two go together like bread and butter. Let me cast your mind back, briefly, to the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final. The game’s into extra-time, there’s 40 seconds to play and Matt Dawson drills the ball out to Johnny Wilkinson who, in one seemingly effortless motion catches, drops and kicks the ball high between the posts. That unforgettable moment at the Telstra Stadium, Sydney, won England the World Cup. Four years later, England bulldozed their way to a consecutive World Cup final in Paris. Despite losing, that too was a tournament that now conjures up some fantastic sporting memories.
On March 25th, the London Varsity will be contested at Richmond Athletic Sports Ground, the home of London Scottish and the traditional venue of the Varsity. English Rugby rarely lacks excitement or tension and this fixture, ‘the greatest sporting event in London’, is no exception.
The annual battle for the Jeremy-George Shield pits together the first fifteens of the University of London’s oldest institutions: King’s College, London and University College, London, reigniting a rivalry that dates back over 150 years. The two sides compete in the same South Eastern BUCS league but have had very different seasons, which should add a little spice to proceedings as there is more at stake than just pride: KCL will be hungry for victory to ensure promotion and UCL will be desperate to avoid defeat, as they attempt to stay in the division. UCL, the current cup holders, have won three of the last four Varsity contests but KCL have had a great season. They’ve won 8 of their 10 league games, including a magnificent second half comeback in a sensational match against KCLMS 1st XV before Christmas. UCL, on the other hand, have had a mixed season. Having won only 4 of their 10 fixtures so far, they are in real danger of being relegated – but it would be utterly foolish to write them off. Let us not forget, that England were given no hope of retaining the World Cup in 2007 yet they reached the final! Plus, UCL reached the quarter final of the BUCS South Eastern knockout cup earlier this season, smashing the University of Greenwich 50-6 en route. KCL did not make it beyond the first round of that competition.
It’s questionable as to whether league or cup form counts for anything anyway. I suspect not. In this match, tactical astuteness might not count for much either. This is the pinnacle of the season for both sides and will mean so much to 30 men and many a spectator. I predict the winner will be the one that wants it most. More often than not, the winners in University sport are the ones that show a greater desire. Yet a moment of magic, inspiration or maybe just luck, could also see one team emerge victorious from a game that is set to enthral. Expect endeavour, pride and passion from both sides. Even for the neutral, this game should be a corker. All money raised from the fixture this year and from the women’s match kicking off two hours before (at 17:30), will be donated to the ‘Right To Play’ charity.
It’s hard to avoid the fact that Rugby, particularly in the last decade, has been a memory generator. One Friday night in March will see the creation of a few more Rugby memories for a fair few London students. If history can teach us only one or two things about what to expect from the Varsity – it is going to be extremely exciting and nail bitingly close! It’s no exaggeration to say that the relative success of both clubs seasons hang on this result.