The Varsity Matches

Rugby Union

The Varsity Matches 2024

🏉 The Varsity Matches embark on a new era as the famous fixture between Oxford and Cambridge Universities makes its debut appearance in 2024 at the home of Saracens. 

NEWSFLASH: THE 2024 VARSITY MATCHES ARE A WRAP! 

🎟️🎫 INTERESTED IN TICKETS OR PREMIUM EXPERIENCES FOR 2025? ⤵️

For tickets: Email tickets@sportonspec.co.uk with ‘Varsity Matches 2025‘ in the subject box to receive an automatic on sale alert.   

For premium seats and hospitality: Email premium@sportonspec.co.uk with ‘Varsity Matches 2025 in the subject box for price/package info as soon as available OR complete the short form here. 

2024 EVENT PREVIEW

Stretching back in time to 1872 when the first match was played the Varsity Matches are one of the world’s longest running sporting fixtures.  And in 2024 this age-old sporting rivalry (see below for full history) heads to StoneX Stadium in north London for the first time.

The move to StoneX Stadium is a major development for the Varsity Matches which have been played at Twickenham since 1921.  The CURUFC and OURFC have decided to move to the event to a smaller venue to ensure its long-term sustainability.  The 2024 edition promises to be an innovative rugby occasion.  Home of Premiership champions Saracens, StoneX Stadium is well-positioned to deliver an exciting new experience for fans.

Last year Oxford stormed back to win the women’s match 31-12 having been 12-4 down against Cambridge at half-time.  The Light Blues first defeat in the fixture since 2016.  The roles were reversed in the men’s match.  Cambridge, with fly-half Jamie Benson pulling the strings, beat Oxford 15-10 to prevent the Dark Blues making it a hat-trick of victories.  

2024 marks the 152nd anniversary of the first ‘Battle of the Blues’ between the two men’s teams, which took place at the University Parks in Oxford on 10th February 1872.  Cambridge lead the men’s series 65-62.  Oxford lead the women’s event, first contested in 1988, by 22-13.

Stand by for a slice of sporting history today as the whistle goes for the latest chapter of this great sporting rivalry played out at its new home at Saracens. 

TICKETS, TIMINGS & TRAVEL

🎟️ Tickets are available on the day from the StoneX Stadium ticket office. 

🎟️🎫 Premium seat (aka hospitality) options for 2024 are sold out.  To enquire for 2025 email premium@sportonspec.co.uk with ‘Varsity Matches 2025 in the subject box for price/package information. 

🗝️ Gates open: 11am TBC.

🏉 Women’s Varsity Match: Kick-off is at 12 noon.

🏉 Men’s Varsity Match: Kick-off is at 3pm

🚊🚗 Travel tips: Mill Hill Broadway is the nearest railway station to StoneX Stadium.  It’s easily accessible from Farringdon/London St Pancras (to the south) and St Albans and Luton (to the north).  The station is a 5 minute taxi journey  to the stadium.  Mill Hill East tube station, on the Northern Line, is a 7-minute taxi journey to the stadium.  If travelling by car the stadium offers 800 guest parking spaces.  It is just 400 metres from Junction 2 of the M1, which is next to the North Circular.  See this ‘Getting to StoneX Stadium‘ guide for more information. 

The Varsity Matches

HISTORY OF THE VARSITY MATCH (courtesy of the The Varsity Matches website)

With the first Varsity Match being played in 1872, it is one of the world’s longest running sporting fixtures.  It represents the pinnacle of amateur and student rugby where two of the most prestigious universities in the world compete for the title of Varsity holders.

The relative length of a Varsity campaign compared to a conventional season is very short.  Culminating in the ultimate finale, the big day of the Varsity Matches.  The journey to the Varsity Matches day is a unique experience.  It endows every player, coach and supporter with many precious memories and a spectacle steeped in tradition, pride and a culture of excellence.

Varsity Match and rugby union history is intertwined.  Oxbridge rugby has been historically, and remains, at the forefront of the development and refinement of the game.  Whilst Oxford and Cambridge are not professional teams, they remain a benchmark for the game through their promotion of the rugby’s traditional values and ideals.  As the pinnacle of amateur sport, the Varsity Match is a unique and unmissable sporting event.

Varsity Match campaign

The Varsity Match campaign starts in September of each year, before the start of Michaelmas Term.  Pre-season training and an overseas tour gives the squads an opportunity to get into winning ways and experience the hospitality of a foreign country.

On their return, the Blues will go head-to-head against a number of Premiership Clubs, some of the top rugby Universities in the country and in mid-November, the Major Stanley’s XV (Oxford) and Steele Bodger’s XV (Cambridge).  All the games and preparations build up to what is the defining moment, and highlight, of the season – The Varsity Match.The match epitomises the age-old rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge Universities. 

At the same time it illustrates the continuing vitality and spirit of amateur rugby.  The importance of the contest is highlighted by the enormous contribution Oxbridge rugby and The Varsity Match have made to the development and refinement of the game of rugby over the last 135 years.

Moving to 15-a-side 

Universities fielded 20 players a-side up until 1875.  As was the norm for rugby football in those early years.  But in 1875 the Universities and their respective Blues took the initiative and changed to 15 a-side, subsequently adopted as the international standard in 1877.

The Varsity Match has taken place annually since 1872.  The first ever Varsity Match between Oxford and Cambridge took place in February 1872 in Oxford’s University Parks.  It took place just a few months after the first international rugby match between England and Wales. 

In the first Varsity Match Oxford wore dark-blue jerseys.  The same as today, though at some stages they have worn white.  Cambridge played in pink, changing to their light blue and white in 1876.  And so the Dark and Light Blues were born.  In 1877 the fixture moved to Kennington Oval.  A neutral ground it was the scene of England’s first home international fixture the previous year.

Varsity Match venues

The Varsity Match had a variety of venues including the Rectory Field during the 1880s.  The home of Blackheath F.C.  In December 1887, the match moved to Queen’s Club in Fulham.  The venue had only just opened and was the best sporting club in Europe.  The Varsity Match remained at the Queen’s Club until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. 

The Decembers of 1919 and 1920 again saw The Varsity Match played at Queen’s Club.  However, by this time, it was becoming too small to accommodate the growing crowds.  The Varsity Match moved in December 1921 to the Rugby Football Union’s ground at Twickenham. 

There was a time when this hallowed fixture served as an unofficial trial.  Selectors from the home nations were eager to see how a talented youngster performed on the bigger stage, similarly whether a more established figure was on form.

Over the years, more than 600 players from either Oxford or Cambridge have gained representative international honours.  The sole focus of each University, irrespective of the matches leading up to that moment when they stand side by side in the tunnel for the first time, is to win The Varsity Match.

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