As boots still covered in last season’s mud are pulled out of the closet, we take a look at the prospects for the teams involved in Michaelmas term’s rugby.
In the first division Teddy Hall and Keble are expected to resume their titanic struggle for the top spot in college rugby. Teddy Hall’s somewhat surprise win in the Cuppers final at the end of last season ended a two year period of Keble dominance over college rugby silverware.
However, Keble will be determined to respond, despite many of the players that lifted them from third division mediocrity having left over the summer. Other than hoping for a good intake of freshers, both teams will be praying for favourable weather after the second season last year was all but washed out, with some teams only playing one game.
Outside of the top two in the division, who are unlikely to be challenged, the main focus will be on how a resurgent Pembroke team will perform in the top flight. Having had a double promotion season last year, followed by victory in the summer sevens tournament, there is a lot of pressure on them and it will be interesting to see if they can live with teams who will undoubtedly provide a higher level of opposition than any they have played in the last few years.
In the league below, Magdalen are presumably surprised to find themselves no longer rubbing shoulders with the other big names in college rugby. Despite being one of the strongest teams in the university, the washout that was last season meant that they were only able to play one match, which happened to be against Teddy Hall, thus condemning them to finishing in the relegation places.
The other teams in the division won’t be looking forward to playing what is probably the third best team around, and Magdalen should have no problem reaffirming their position in the top division.
The other promotion place is likely to be contested between Queens and Christ Church, although a lot will depend on both teams recruiting heavily at the beginning of the year. In terms of relegation, newly promoted Univ look the most likely to go straight back down. Having narrowly squeaked past Balliol on the last day of the season to confirm promotion, outside of Cuppers they still remain a lacklustre force.
The other new face in the division is St. Anne’s/St. John’s who, despite losing over half their back line from last season, will hope that their dominant pack will take them to mid table safety. They would have been pleased to beat Worcester, the other team who looks to be in contention for relegation, in Cuppers at the end of last season.
Doubtless a thrilling season of blood, guts and drama is in the offing for both divisions.