1st February 2018, 16:40 | university

Oxford Varsity set to be 'biggest yet' in 2018

Oxford Varsity set to be 'biggest yet' in 2018

By Daniel Fowler

On February 16th, Midlands 1A rivals Oxford University and Oxford Brookes go head-to-head in their annual Varsity battle.

Brookes claimed the spoils last season, their first ever win over Oxford in Rugby League, despite being in a lower division - and they capped off a superb year with promotion.

Although they have not beaten Oxford in the league this season, Brookes are still confident considering Varsity is a one-off match where anything can happen.

"Form goes out of the window at Varsity," said Brookes captain Dougie Chirnside.

"Last year, we put a real focus on Derby Day. We had our heads switched on, we were in the right place and came out of the blocks flying.

"They (Oxford) took 20 minutes till they realised they were in a game. And last year, being in the league we were in, it was a different step up and our boys were ready for that mentally.

"The first year I was involved we took a while to start but only ended up losing by four points so last season we fought back with a vengeance."

Brookes are rightly proud of their Derby Day win and it is something that certainly inspired them for the rest of their promotion campaign.

But they're looking to build on the great occasion, both on and off the pitch.

Club president Joel Hopkins added: "I've been involved in the last two Varsity matches against Oxford, and it keeps getting bigger every single year.

"Last year we had almost 2,000 people come to watch the match and we came away with a big win. That was certainly one of my best experiences at university.

"We'll be putting a mix of our youthful talent and experience into the squad while selecting the strongest team we can. We didn't do so well against them last time around in the league (49-6 defeat) but we’re putting that down to the performance.

"We drew against them earlier on in the season so we’ll be giving it our all to get the win."

With both teams hoping for a bigger attendance than ever before, the game is set to be a barnstormer as Hopkins mentions to those unsure about whether to attend: "It'a a fantastic opportunity you might not have seen the like of before.

"It's a massive occasion, a great atmosphere.

"I have friends who had never seen rugby before and they've come every single year and loved it. It's a perfect opportunity to get involved with Rugby League at university."