Toby Flood will follow in the footsteps of fellow internationals Jamie Roberts, James Horwill and Flip van der Merwe by winning a Blue for Cambridge in the historic 150th anniversary Varsity Match at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, 2 April.
The 60-times capped former England outside half, a World Cup finalist in 2007, has recovered from injury in time to face Oxford at a ground he knows very well. He made his England debut there against Argentina in 2006 and won his final cap at the home of English rugby against New Zealand in seven years later.
The 36-year-old, who is studying for an MBA, has won the No 10 jersey for the Light Blues ahead of current England U20 cap Jamie Benson, who is selected at full back. Cambridge skipper Charlie Watson, the Saracens and England U20 international, misses the game due to injury. That means Steve Leonard will lead the side for the third time from the back row.
It will be the first time the game has been played at Twickenham since 2019 due to the pandemic. Both Horwill and Van der Merwe played in the 15-0 triumph on that occasion.
The last game was played under adapted laws at Welford Road, Leicester, in 2021, when Oxford ran out winners by 34-7. The men’s match, the 140th meeting between the two universities, will be preceded by the women’s Varsity Match, which was won 10-5 by Cambridge last year.
Oxford skipper Louis Jackson has also been able to draw on international experience in his selection. On top of last year’s man of the match, USA Eagles star Andrew Durutalo, he has two more Eagles caps and a Hong Kong hooker.
Tight head prop Eric Fry has 48 American caps to his name, lock Nick Civetta 31 and Durutalo a further 22. Hooker Alex Post has played seven times for Hong Kong.
Cambrige women’s captain Laura Bleehen will be one of 10 returning Blues in a side that has already met Oxford twice this season in BUCS Championship matches. The score to date is 1-1.
Her opposite number, Jess Abele, has played in both colours in the Varsity Match and will be hoping to end a run of four successive defeats for the Dark Blues. She will have five returning Blues in her ranks, as well as the Colombian international scrum half Estefania Ramirez.
Oxford: Sam Reynolds (University); Luke Wyllie (St Hilda’s), Liam Furniss (Kellogg), Louis Jackson * (Oriel, Captain), Henry Hackett * (Christ Church); David Wilkinson (St Edmund Hall), Callum Grant * (St Anne’s); Tom Osborne (Trinity); Alex Post # (St Cross), Eric Fry # (Keble), Piers Von Dadelszen * (St Edmund Hall), Nick Civetta # (Wolfson), Euan Friend * (St Cross), Mungo Mason (St Cross), Andrew Durutalo * # (Green Templeton)
Replacements: Louis Wright * (Trinity), Gus Coningham (St John’s), Barnaby Vaughan * (Corpus Christi), Ed Blake (St Hilda’s), Charlie Papworth * (Jesus), Tom Humberstone * (Jesus), Arthur Friend (St Anne’s), Oscar Marriott-Clarke * (Magdalen)
Cambridge: Jamie Benson (Downing); Dougal Russell * (St John’s), Suwi Chibale * (Queens’), Max Loveridge * (Jesus), Tim Andrew (Jesus); Toby Flood # (Queens’), Charles Favell * (Homerton); Ben Jackson *(Sidney Sussex) * 2. James Wright (Jesus), Matt Pettit * (Clare), Charles Friend (St John’s), Zac Bischoff (St John’s), Stephen Leonard * (Emmanuel, Captain), Tom Walton * (St John’s), Archie Smeaton * (Queens’)
Replacements: Luke Parry * (Downing), Patrick Harris (Hughes Hall), Laurence Marwood (St Edmund’s), Jason Kururangi * (St Edmund’s), Demi Obembe * (Churchill), Dan Montesino Jones (St John’s), David Holdroyd (Jesus), Alex King (St Catharine’s)
*Denotes Blue # Denotes International
Oxford Women: Clodagh Holmes * (University); Chloe-Marie Hawley (St Catherine’s), Alex Travers * (Worcester), Caitlin Gill (Queen’s), Kehinde Lawal (St Catherine’s); Milo Cohen * (Jesus), Estefania Ramirez Castillo # (Green Templeton); Juliette Shorey (St Hilda’s), Rachel Martin (Brasenose), Maya Mellor * (Somerville), Imogen Kilcoyne (St John’s), Josie Osborne (Regent’s Park), Jessica Abele * (Exeter, Captain), Lauren Webb (Corpus Christi), Megan Isaac * (Exeter)
Replacements: Alice Ardis (St Catherine’s), Zoe Harper (St Anne’s), Amber Wilkins (Lady Margaret Hall), Lottie Fry (Wadham), Emily Blake (St Hugh’s), Tabitha Preston (Worcester), Isabella Zani (Keble), Lily-Mae Phillips (New)
Cambridge Women: Emily Bell *(Fitzwilliam); Colette Russell (Fitzwilliam), Laura Vass (Fitzwilliam), Tabbie Brough * (Queens’), Nancy Twigg (Homerton); Emma Jones (Selwyn), Millie Bushrod * (Pembroke); Laura Bleehen * (Girton, Captain), Saffron Hicks * (Selwyn), Vianney Gomezgil Yaspik * (St Edmund’s), Hilde Schneemann * (Darwin), Hetta Friend * (Robinson), Rose Scowen *(Magdalene), Sophie Lamont (Corpus Christi), Lauren Gregory * (Corpus Christi)
Replacements: Bridget Withers (Churchill), Sophie Johnson (Pembroke), Cara Prowling * (St John’s), Sonia Ubong (Darwin), Robyn Halcrow (Fitzwilliam), Sibella Egerton (Caius), Dorothy Burrowes (Trinity Hall), Elise Goddard (Pembroke)
* Denotes Blue# Denotes International