Oxford have omitted Heineken Cup winner and current Newcastle Falcons centre Dominic Waldouck for their starting XV in next week’s men’s Varsity Match.
The 30-year-old signed a contract with Newcastle in April which allowed him to study for a Masters while still playing for the Premiership side, but his first term at the University has been blighted by injury, meaning he will start among the replacements.
“I had a back operation in the summer,” Waldouck told Cherwell. “I’ve had a few issues relating to that which have been pretty frustrating, and then in the Major Stanley’s game, I came off with a slight niggle to my hamstring.”
“I think it’s the right decision [to leave me on the bench],” he said. “I don’t think I’ve been able to prove myself enough with the injuries and stuff which haven’t gone my way, which is unfortunate.”
Starting at centre ahead of Waldouck will be Canada international Dan Moor, and PGCE Physics student Sam Moorby, who scored in Saturday’s 34-24 defeat to Richmond RFC.
Both will be making their first appearances in the Varsity Match, as Oxford travel to Twickenham with only six returning Blues in their XV.
Kieran Ball, who missed the Richmond loss after going off injured in the victory against Major Stanley’s XV two weeks ago, joins Will Wilson, Ed David, Tom Stileman, Tom Kershaw and captain Conor Kearns in having played in the fixture previously.
Waldouck described the Blues squad as being made up of “special bonds and relationships,” while drawing parallels between it and the “great teams I was part of at Wasps”, where he won the Heineken Cup as a 19-year-old, and the Premiership a season later.
He is one of five current or former professionals in Kearns’ squad, alongside Moor, Sam Edgerley, Rob Talotti and Andy Saull.
But the players that have stood out for him this season are two fellow replacements.
“In terms of his desire and his attitude, Noah Miller has been outstanding up front, contributing to the team wherever he can,” said Waldouck.
“And Alex Hogg – his movement on the ball has been quite outstanding.”
For Cambridge, prop Will Briggs will make Varsity Match history next Thursday. It will be the seventh time that he lines up against Oxford at Twickenham, beating six-time Blue Herbert Fuller’s record, which stretches back to 1883.
Former World Seven Player of the Year Ollie Phillips will start on the wing for the Light Blues after missing last year’s 23-18 victory through injury.
Cambridge will be captained by former Bristol full-back Charlie Amesbury, who has recovered from a knock that saw him the side’s final match before Varsity.
The announcements of the women’s squads threw up few surprises, with both Oxford and Cambridge sticking with the teams that have guided them to successful seasons so far.
Sophie Behan’s side features eight returning Blues, with two of this season’s standout players – fly-half Johanna Dombrowski and winger Abby D’Cruz – set to play at Twickenham for the first time.
Oxford sit second in Bucs Premier South going into tomorrow’s clash with Hartpury University, with four wins from six games.
Lara Gibson’s Cambridge, meanwhile, have been in cruise control for most of the 2017/18 season, playing in the division below Oxford. They have scored 362 points and conceded just seven in their five Bucs Midlands 1A fixtures to date, and put 114 points past Bournemouth in last week’s Trophy game.
However, it remains to be seen how they will fare when they come up against sterner opposition.
Cambridge’s starting XV features as many as twelve returning Blues, who will be keen to avenge last year’s heartbreaking 3-0 loss to the Dark Blues.
Tickets for next Thursday’s games are still available here.
Oxford Men: Edgerley (Catz), David* (Hilda’s), Moor (Christ Church), Moorby (Queen’s), Stileman* (Peter’s), Kearns* (Jesus, captain), Kershaw* (Worcester); Henry (Somerville), Elvin (Hugh’s), Ball* (Trinity), Fifita (SEH), Pozniak (Benet’s), Talotti (Peter’s), Saull (Kellogg), Wilson* (Keble).
Replacements: Thornton* (LMH), Miller (Peter’s), Parker (Brasenose), McPherson (LMH), Adams (LMH), Hogg* (Keble), Waldouck (Kellogg), Barley (SEH).
Cambridge Men: Amesbury* (captain), Phillips, Russell, Hennessey, King*, Phillips*, Bell; Briggs*, Burnett*, Dixon*, Koster, Hunter*, Watson, Leonard, Richardson.
Replacements: Huppatz, Dean, Troughton, Rose, Hammond, Elms, Griffiths, Triniman*.
Oxford Women: Trott* (Wadham), Smart (Mansfield), Simpson (SEH), Bunting* (New), D’Cruz (Keble), Dombrowski (Kellogg), Metcalfe-Jones* (Christ Church); Ellender (Pembroke), Bidgood* (University), Odgers* (LMH), Haste (Trinity), Collis (Lincoln), Cooper* (Worcester), McArdle* (Green Templeton), Behan* (SEH, captain).
Replacements: Cartwright (New), Leong (Hugh’s), Matte-Gregory (Mansfield), Male (SEH), Rees (Keble), Mingay (Pembroke), Fenwick (Exeter), Bamber (Peter’s).
Cambridge Women: Middleton*, Farrant*, Gibson* (captain), Coleman*, Nicholls, Donaldson*, Marks*; Orriss, Gurney*, Banner*, Elgar*, Nunez-Mulder*, F. Shuttleworth, Withers*, Pratt*.
Replacements: Pierce*, Chan, McCoig, Bramley, Spruzen, J. Shuttleworth, Graves, Gimson.
*denotes returning Blue.