Jake played a key role in the Blues’ Varsity victory in DecemberJake Hennessey

Playing rugby with the Cambridge Blues is an experience like no other. I’ve been incredibly lucky to represent the Blues’ side as a fresher this year, and I’ve created some unforgettable memories along the way.

It was a real eye-opener for me when I first joined them for training in September, seeing the contrast between the University sport set-up and the professional environment of my club Harlequins. The nature of the amateur game is that everybody is there out of choice and out of a love for the game and for the people they play with. That’s the real beauty of Cambridge University Rugby Union Football Club (CURUFC).

The best part is not, in fact, the rugby (though playing and winning at Twickenham isn’t too bad). It’s the relationships you form and the journey you share with people who become your closest friends in a matter of weeks.

Little did I think, when Harlequins told me they weren’t going to be offering me a contract renewal, that in just a few weeks I would be pulling on the red rose and representing my country

We train three times a week, as well as matches on Wednesday night. This might not seem too much, especially compared to some of the other Blues’ squads, but the physical demands of the sport make recovery essential. Our bodies simply couldn’t manage more training without breaking down. Once you add on our additional weights and fitness sessions (which could be five to six times per week for injured players), then the weekly training load is pretty gruelling. But we know that’s the way it has to be. If we want to win at Twickenham we have to push ourselves every week and all the CURUFC Blues love doing that, because we know it’ll be worth it at the end of the year.

This year has seen lots of development for me both on and off the field, and I think that’s one of the real beauties of a place like Cambridge. Anyone with reasonable sporting commitments will know that it’s tough to juggle your sport and academics; it’s a challenge that can sometimes feel impossible.

I think the real key to making it work is enjoyment. If you can enjoy your study and enjoy your training, that’s a really positive place to be, one where they can both support and drive each other. That has certainly been my experience this year. Knowing I have training in the evening (my silver lining) encourages me to work harder during the day. Similarly, I want to get up at 6am for my weights session if I know I have a day of lectures ahead. When you have the enjoyment there, sacrificing that night out or putting in an extra hour at the library suddenly becomes a much easier decision to make.

My selection for England rugby sevens really caught me by surprise. It was a normal Tuesday morning, I had just come from a lecture and suddenly my phone rang. There had been an injury and they needed me. Could I fly to Moscow on Friday? A hectic few days ensued, running around London, trying to sort out a last-minute visa, reorganising supervisions and catching up on missed lectures. Everything worked out.

Little did I think, when Harlequins told me they weren’t going to be offering me a contract renewal, that in just a few weeks I would be pulling on the red rose and representing my country. It has always been my dream to wear the England jersey, but its realisation had always eluded me – I had never quite made the standard for any of the England age-grade teams. In truth, I had come to terms with the fact that this dream might go unfulfilled.


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It was a massive honour to represent my country and wear the badge, but in truth it’s not a world apart from playing for the Blues in Cambridge. The difference in standard is obviously significant, but the nature of the team and the environment is quite similar. Everyone still loves the camaraderie of the changing room, doing battle on the pitch with your best friends, enjoying a beer with the opposition afterwards when it’s all over. That’s the real beauty of our game. That doesn’t change, no matter what standard you play or which badge you wear.

Now that my exams are over, my next big focus is this year’s Varsity match. I loved my first experience at Twickenham last year, and felt very privileged to start in a winning Blues’ side. I want to do everything I can to ensure the team is in the best position possible come 6th December, and hopefully earn selection for the game. Ultimately, that is what everyone at CURUFC is focused on – winning at Twickenham.

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