Although many see Blues rugby only in its most important moment, the Varsity Match on the hallowed turf of Twickenham, a lot of effort goes in behind the scenes to deliver a performance worthy of the grand stage the team is given. From early morning hill runs to the horror of ice baths, this article demonstrates the sacrifices and commitments that are required to play Blues rugby at Oxford University.
To begin the 2010 Varsity campaign, the Blue squad travelled to Wales where we paddled two-man canoes for nine solid hours over two days. The rowing was broken up with an overnight stay in leaky tents at the base of a steep hill which was assaulted twice in the course of the night under the watchful eye of the coaching staff. Add to this the compulsory 6am swim in the freezing river and you have a rather brutal team-building exercise which tested the fitness and commitment of a group of players who had come together for the first time just a week earlier.
While Russia as a pre-season tour was certainly an incredible place to visit and we were treated like kings, there was no end to the toil and graft that had begun in Wales. Runs on abandoned Soviet athletics tracks were the norm while assault courses were tackled almost daily over the two-week stay. The upside of this effort was that the squad returned to the UK in prime physical condition, ready to fly into the fixture list with vigour.
Showpiece matches against Premiership ‘A’ teams and the ‘big one’ in December are always on the horizon for those who might doubt the effort is worth it. The early alarms to fit in gym sessions before lectures and the sprints up Headington Hill, followed by 5 minute ice baths, were all justified by being involved in these games.
However, many in the group would say that the opportunity to be a part of a group of players with such incredible team spirit, rather than the victory on 9th December by 21 points to 10 over Cambridge, was what made all the sacrifices over the course of the four months worthwhile.