It’s creepy how history has a habit of repeating itself. When the first Varsity Match kicked off in The Parks, Oxford on 10 February, 1872, the Cambridge skipper, Edward Ingram, was unable to play.
Fast forward to the 150th anniversary fixture at Twickenham this weekend and once again the captain of the Light Blues will be sitting out the big game. For Ingram it was exams that kept him away, while Watson is nursing a long-term injury.
Watson, an England U20 cap with a professional contract with Saracens, still intends to play his part by being a watercarrier and will be hoping things go a little bit better for his side than Ingram’s. Oxford won the inaugural fixture by one goal to nil.
“I’m obviously gutted at not being able to play, but I will still be with the boys every step of the way as the watercarrier at Twickenham. I was fortunate to get a taste of the action when we won in 2019 and that is an occasion I will never forget,” said Watson.
“Because I knew pretty early on that I wouldn’t be able to play it has allowed me to concentrate of leading the team off the field. I can still have an influence and I still feel very much a part of the whole process.
“Our statistics have been pretty reasonable all season and I feel as though it is all coming together at the right time. The move from a first half of the season Varsity Match to the end of the second has been interesting.
“As a new captain facing a game against Oxford in 12 weeks time you probably have to come into the campaign with a few pre-conceived ideas on certain player and certain styles of play. You don’t get much time to get it right.
“This season has been totally different. The players have had more of a chance to settle in, compete against each other and learn from their experiences. I’m not sure how many changes there would have been to my starting XV if I had had to face a Varsity Match in December, rather than April, but there would definitely have been a few. I really do think it has been beneficial.”
Oxford captain Louis Jackson, the first undergraduate since the eighties to captain Oxford, would have been playing directly opposite Watson at centre and feels for his counterpart.
“It’s a huge blow to Charlie not to be able to play. As captain of either Oxford or Cambridge you have to put in a huge amount of work to make the season a success and being able to play in the Varsity Match is the biggest reward,” said Jackson.