The academic rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge universities goes back centuries, all the way to Cambridge’s foundation by former Oxford scholars in the 13th century. However, since the 19th century the two have also been fierce sporting rivals, with the most famous competitions between the two being the annual boat race and the Varsity Rugby Match (not affiliated with us!)
Played on the second Thursday of each December at the famous Twickenham stadium in West London, the home of England’s national rugby team, the Varsity Match is broadcast on live TV and watched by over 500,000 people. The Varsity Match is almost as old as rugby itself. The founder of the sport, William Webb Ellis, was a student at Oxford’s Brasenose College, and the Oxford University Rugby Football Club, founded in 1869 and pre-dating the Rugby Union, is the oldest club in the UK.
The first Varsity Match took place in Oxford in February 1872. The venue subsequently shifted over the years, until in 1921 it was moved to Twickenham, where it has been played ever since. The Varsity Match has taken place every year since 1872 except during the First and Second World Wars. More than 600 players from Oxford or Cambridge have gone on to gain international honours during the years. Since 1988 there’s been a women’s Varsity Match too, but it wasn’t held at Twickenham until 2015. Today, women’s rugby continues to grow throughout the country, gaining increasing recognition.
Oxford plays in dark blue, while Cambridge wears light blue and white. The Varsity campaign is very short compared to a conventional season, starting in September and featuring an overseas tour and matches against a number of Premiership clubs and other top university teams in the UK. This is all to prepare the teams for the big day – The Varsity Match itself.
There have been a total of 134 men’s matches played, with Cambridge leading Oxford 61 to 59. There have been 14 draws. Last year in 2016, Cambridge triumphed for the first time in 7 years, winning 23-18. Meanwhile, Oxford’s women edged Cambridge in a close-fought game to win 3-0.
If you’re interested in experiencing the Varsity Match first hand at Twickenham, you can subscribe to updates at the official website, so you can be notified as soon as tickets go on sale!
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