RUGBY UNION: No cash blues for universities

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The Oxbridge universities may be rugby union's last outposts of amateurism, but with the 114th University match at Twickenham just a week away, they - with not a penny to pay in players' wages - are coining it as never before, writes Steve Bale.

Yesterday, the captains were in London to name their teams, with three old Blues turning out for both Oxford and Cambridge as the Light Blues defend the Bowring Bowl next Tuesday, safe in the knowledge that 69,000 tickets have already been sold.

This will almost certainly mean a world-record attendance for a club match as well as at least pounds 250,000 going to each university from a gross match income of pounds 1m. In addition, C T Bowring, to mark the 20th year of their sponsorship, yesterday raised their combined annual contribution to pounds 175,000. In 1976 it began at pounds 3,000 each.

All of which makes the University match an inexplicable phenomenon of modern sport, more so than ever since rugby went professional. How ironic that it used to be said that the students, either training or playing every day of the winter term, were the game's only true professionals.

Yesterday's selection brings an overdue Blue to the Cambridge captain, Steve Cottrell, who withdrew on the morning of last year's match with a leg injury. But Adrian Spencer's equally overdue reinstatement as a rugby union amateur came too late for his inclusion.

Spencer gained his Blue as a replacement during Cambridge's epic 1994 victory, only to be instantly suspended for a year by the Rugby Football Union when it was discovered that he had played a couple of rugby league games for London Broncos.

He was eventually readmitted to rugby union before time when the RFU kindly consented to accept a free gangway from rugby league, although the former All Black John Gallagher could have wished for the same treatment, instead of having to wait until the moratorium ends at the end of the season. Spencer is likely to be on the bench again.

OXFORD: P du Preez (Queen's School Queenstown, Diocesan Coll Cape Town, Stellenbosch Univ & Keble); S Rush (Harrow, Loughborough Univ & Mansfield), Q de Bruyn (Diocesan Coll Cape Town, Cape Town Univ & Keble), J Riondet (Lycee la Kanal Paris, Sorbonne Univ & Mansfield), *T Howe (Banbridge Acad, St Andrew's Univ & Keble, capt); D Humphreys (Ballymena Acad, Queen's Univ Belfast & St Cross), M Butler (King Edward VI School Lichfield & St Edmund Hall); C Norton (St Andrew's Coll Grahamstown, Stellenbosch Univ & Keble), K Svoboda (Centennial School Belleville, Toronto Univ, Queen's Univ Ontario & Templeton), D Penney (Mount Pearl School, Newfoundland Memorial Univ & Wolfson), N Basson (Diocesan Coll Cape Town, Stellenbosch Univ & St Cross), *P Coveney (Clongowes Wood Coll Kildare, Cork Univ Coll & New College), M Reilly (St Gerard's School Bray, Trinity Coll Dublin & St Anne's), *R Yeabsley (Haberdashers' Aske's & Keble), M Orsler (King's Canterbury & Christ Church).

CAMBRIDGE: M Singer (Wycliffe, Bristol Univ & Homerton); D Casado (Ampleforth, Newcastle Univ & St Edmund's), T Whitford (The Leys, Leeds Univ & Homerton), S Cottrell (Christ's Coll Christchurch, Otago Univ & St Edmund's, capt), *N Walne (Caerleon Comp & St Catharine's); R Ashforth (Bradford GS & Peterhouse), D Maslen (Rendcombe Coll & St Edmund's); *L Mooney (St Boniface's Coll Plymouth, Cardiff Univ & Hughes Hall), J Evans (Neath Tertiary, Emmanuel GS Swansea, Cardiff Inst & Homerton), N Holgate (Armthorpe Comp Doncaster & Robinson), *R Bramley (Queen Elizabeth GS Wakefield, Nottingham Univ & St Edmund's), C Simpson (Soham Coll, Hills Road Coll Cambridge, Loughborough Univ & Homerton), M Hyde (St Ignatius Coll Sydney, Sydney Univ & St Edmund's), S Surridge (St Kentigern Coll Auckland, Auckland Univ & Wolfson), R Earnshaw (Yarm & St John's). * denotes Blue