Leonard Hoping to Turn Back the Clock to Register Another Cambridge Victory
Stephen Leonard will become the first player in 37 years to lead Cambridge into successive Varsity Matches when he skippers the Light Blues against Oxford at the Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium on Sunday, 4 July.
The last man to lead Cambridge into back-to-back Varsity Matches was the former England wing Mark Bailey in 1983 and 1984. The Light Blues won both those games and Leonard will be hoping to increase his side’s 64-60 lead in the 138 match series with another victory.
The 24-year-old medical student, a former Wales Schools U16 and England Counties cap, captained Cambridge to a 15-0 win over their arch-rivals on the last occasion the two teams met at Twickenham on 12 December, 2019.
He will be one of four players from the 2019 starting XV, including two-try hero Fergus Jemphrey, while former Scotland U19 and England Sevens centre Jake Hennessey has returned to win a third Blue after a year away in France.
“The players had to go away and work on their own for a year or more and now they can’t wait to have another crack at Oxford,” said Leonard.
“I think all the difficulties everyone has had to endure during the pandemic has made all the players on both sides even more determined to uphold the great tradition of this fixture. It promises to be a Varsity Match like no other given the time of year and the law changes.
“We’ve had a few warm-up matches under the new rules and the intensity of the games, and the much higher ball in play time, have made it amazing to play in and watch. In one of our matches the ball was in play for 42 minutes in a 70 minute game.
“Normally you get a bit of time to recover when there is a scrum, but without that phase of play the game is simply non-stop.”
Full back Joey Gatus, centre Charlie Watson and prop Dan Collins are the other returning Blues joining the skipper, Jemphrey and Hennessey, while among the newcomers, scrum half Charles Favell has spent time playing in the age-grade teams at Saracens.
His half-back partner, Etienne Dussartre, is a former France U20 cap who spent three years at Racing 92, playing in both the Top 14 and Champions Cup, two at Grenoble and was playing in PROD2 for Angouleme last year.
Oxford will be hoping for better fortune than in 2019 when they lost four key players to injury at Twickenham. They lost scrum-half George Tresidder to injury before the game, saw influential No 8 George Messum go off with concussion eight minutes in, lost outside half Tom Humberstone to injury after 28 minutes and then had captain Ed David depart after 58 minutes.
Messum has returned for one last crack and will lead the side. Alongside him in the back row will be the vastly experienced American Eagles international, Andrew Durutalo. Born in New York City and raised in Fiji, he played in the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England and then the 2016 Olympic Sevens in Rio.
He played Super Rugby with the Sunwolves, Premiership rugby with Worcester Warriors and in the Championship with Ealing Trailfinders. One of nine returning Blues in the starting XV, Sam Miller makes up the back row trio.
Among the replacements is Luxembourg international prop Matt Dennis-Soto and former Wasps and England Saxons lock Kearnan Myall. There are also four more Blues on the bench.
“I’m super excited about our side, which is a great blend of experience and youth. The players have all had to work hard in training and in their exams of late, so hats off to them for managing to get through it all,” said Messum.
“It is going to be great to play at such a traditional ground as Welford Road and it promises to be as fast and furious as ever. We played in a deluge in 2019, so hopefully the sun will shine on us in Leicester.
“We had plenty of selection headaches after our warm-up matches and everyone is excited at the prospect of playing under the law variations.”
Dan Stoller * (Queen’s); Louis Jackson * (Oriel), Nick Greenhalgh * (Keble), Andrew Humberstone (Wolfson), Rob Quinlan (Jesus); Tom Humberstone * (Jesus), Calum Grant (St Anne’s); John Aaron Henry * (Somerville), Will Barker (Keble), Euan Friend * (University), Jasper Dix * (Oriel), Piers Von Dadelszen (St Edmund Hall), Sam Miller * (St Edmund Hall), Andrew Durutalo (Green Templeton), George Messum * (Kellogg, captain)
Replacements: Louis Wright * (Trinity), Barnaby Vaughan * (Corpus Christi ), Matt Dennis-Soto (Kellogg), Kearnan Myall (Kellogg), Herbert Watson * (St Edmund Hall), Rory Tegner (Pembroke), Henry Hackett * (Christ Church), Will Wright (Linacre)
Joe Gatus * (Corpus Christi); Sam Isaacs (Hughes Hall), Jake Hennessey * (Trinity), Charlie Watson * (Selwyn), Fergus Jemphrey * (Homerton); Etienne Dussartre (St Catharine’s), Charles Favell (Homerton); Dan Collins *(Fitzwilliam), Jamey Chaudhry (Homerton), Matt Pettit (Clare), Tom Walton (St John’s), Zac Bischoff (St John’s), Hugo Lloyd Williams (St John’s), Demi Obembe (Churchill), Stephen Leonard * (Emmanuel, captain)
Replacements: Luke Parry (Downing), Ben Jackson (Sidney Sussex), George Cook (Robinson), Rowan Beckett * (Peterhouse), Matt West (St John’s), James Elms (Magdalene), Max Loveridge (Jesus), Suwi Chibale (Queens’)
- Denotes Blue