Charlie Amesbury will lead out the Men's Light Blue Squad at Twickehnam on December 7thCURUFC

Charlie Amesbury, full-back extraordinaire, is in his second year at Cambridge. Coming from Bristol’s professional set-up, one might question whether the Varsity Match is really that significant for him, even being Captain of the Men’s team. Any doubt was put to rest by the Blues’ Captain as we discussed the biggest game of the year prior to the Steele-Bodger match on Wednesday 22nd.

‘The performances post our tour to South Africa have been good. We made a strong start to the season. It was a shame to miss out on a win early on in the year.’ The Blues drew twice in their first three matches, against Durham University and Cambridge RUFC. Since then the results have not gone to plan, however the Captain is keen to stress that the schedule was constructed to challenge his players: ‘We have been to some dark places, but we are stronger for it.’

Against Northampton in October, the Blues succumbed to the professional side 59-7. The result was an improvement on the previous year, and the Saints’ side included a number of internationals. ‘That game was a measure of our physicality. It was a turning point in our campaign last year and allowed us to measure ourselves against the best.’

CURUFC’s most recent game, against a British Police side, finished 42-40. ‘Scoring a lot of tries was a positive, as we aim to be unpredictable in attack, but we have some work-ons in defense.’ Is the Steele-Bodger match, the 70th iteration of the historic fixture, an opportunity, then, to tie up a few loose ends?

‘There are still positions up for grabs at this stage,’ says Amesbury. The 70th Steele-Bodger Match is the last fixture for the Blues before the big occasion at Twickenham. ‘We are hoping that our combinations will gel. The game, being a big occasion it is a good opportunity for the boys to experience playing in front of a crowd. It will be loud so communication will be tested, as it will be at Twickenham.’

What combinations Amesbury is hoping will gel remains to be seen. The Blues, like their counterparts at Oxford, have battled injury all season. ‘Injuries are not an excuse. We have had to bring in younger guys up front, and thus lack a bit of power. But, those who have come in have played really well.’ 

With so many younger guys in contention, scrum-half Chris Bell and centre Jake Hennessey, for instance, does Amesbury shoulder the responsibility of leadership solely himself: ‘I expect a team of 15 leaders, 23 when the replacements are out there. From full back I can’t lead the pack, so there is an element of reliance on leaders up front, the likes of Will Briggs, Nick Koster, and Andrew Hunter.’

One wonders how much interest Amesbury has taken in the fortunes of the Oxford side up to this point. ‘I will look at the Oxford side post-Bodgers game. But for the most part we are concentrating on ourselves. We want to be as good as we can be. I know they have a lot of firepower, and everyone wants to see a great game of rugby.’

When asked if he expects a fierce contest, Amesbury replied, ‘It is every year.’

The Captain, in his second year in the Fenlands, must finely balance his responsibilities leading the team with his own performance: ‘I have to make sure that the right processes are in place for success, but I also cannot forget about myself. I have been helped immensely by the Secretary Jonny Dixon and Coach James Shanahan, but we also have a great bunch of guys and the culture in the club is excellent.

The Varsity Match, in recent years, has been headlined by a number of international stars. Only a few years ago, Jamie Roberts, Wales international and British & Irish Lion, was part of the Light Blue set-up. Who, though, does Amesbury consider his current standout players? One such player is Chris Bell, scrum-half and second year at Girton. ‘Bellie has really stepped up to the plate; he has great passing ability on either side, and his kicking game has come on an awful lot. Nick Koster is another standout; Nick has played Super 15s rugby and is a big ball carrier up front.’

When asked what style of rugby his team wants to play, Amesbury, with good reason, is less than forthcoming: ‘We’re getting into tactics here,’ as he laughs off the question. As a Cambridge student myself, I leave the conversation there.

CURUFC wom the 70th Steele-Bodger Match at Grange Road on Wednesday 22nd November, their final fixture before the 136th Men’s Varsity Match at Twickenham on Thursday 7th December. Is Amesbury confident? ‘We have got the team to win it,’ is his response.

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